Up until last month, Councilman Dennis Gallagher had been occupying his time by lobbying city officials hard to ensure that development took place at St. Saviour's ‒ a property with significance dating back to pre-colonial times. Gallagher met privately with Queens Borough President Helen Marshall on three occasions to convince her to help him help a conglomerate of businessmen to overdevelop this part of his district. Marshall proudly told the Daily News in November that the answer to the St. Saviour's problem had been solved ‒ she would support building all around the church with no promises of public open space or restoration of the church building.
While many of his constituents preferred that he fight to save the entire property, our councilman was pushing for a compromise plan almost from the very beginning. This would have called for the destruction of the 1849 parsonage house designed by Richard Upjohn, the removal of just about all of the open space, and would have the shell of the church building (a politician's words, not ours) enclosed on three sides by 70-plus cheaply constructed multi-family housing units. Many other practical options for obtaining the land were suggested, but Dennis Gallagher had done his best to ensure that none of them became a reality.
"I've done everything humanly possible to try to maintain this property and this church," Gallagher told the Daily News in November. "Unfortunately, I haven't gotten the cooperation necessary from the mayor's office..." In July, civic leaders and Councilman Tony Avella tried to set up a meeting with Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff to discuss the city acquiring the site for parkland. Doctoroff responded that he didn't want to get involved because Gallagher didn't support the idea. How revealing.
The Daily News also reported on November 13th that a city planning source told them as recently as two weeks ago, Gallagher had inquired about the status of the development's application, wondering why it was taking so long to be certified.
If Councilman Dennis Gallagher had been pushing for a park at the site from the beginning instead of working in the best interests of a developer, the issue likely would have been over months ago and the entire site saved. Gallagher should have been rallying other elected officials to raise money for purchase of the property but instead chose to show loyalty toward a major source of his campaign contributions.
Now we are faced with the possibility of the site being developed as-of-right. We have faced these types of battles before and are up to the challenge. The Home Depot at the Elmhurst Gas Tanks site was an as-of-right development, too. But there won't be a Home Depot there now; there will be a park at the site.
JPCA will continue to fight for St. Saviour's to meet the same fate.