Tonight at the Community Board 5 meeting, a letter was read by Edward Kampermann at the request of Lee Principe, son of the late Maspeth community activist and former CB5 chairman, Frank Principe. The letter asked for more cooperation between members of the community board, JPCA and local elected officials and called on them to work together to save St. Saviour's Church.
Lee mentioned that his father had hoped 20 years ago that the St. Saviour's grounds would one day become a park. Frank Principe saved West Maspeth back in the 1980s by working with the Department of City Planning to create a new mixed use zone category called M1-1D. This protected the manufacturing interests of the area while assuring residents that they would be able to rebuild their homes should they be destroyed by fire or other disaster.
Over the past few months, Councilman Dennis Gallagher has been calling members of community board 5 individually and pressuring them to vote in favor of a proposed zoning change to allow Maspeth Development, LLC to build new housing on the St. Saviour's site, which is currently prohibited under the M1-1D designation. Gallagher's compromise calls for demolition of the parsonage designed by Richard Upjohn while sparing the church edifice. Mr. Principe made it clear that he is in favor of saving the entire parcel, as his father would have favored.
Mr. Principe has thus far collected donations from West Maspeth businesses totalling more than $20,000 for the St. Saviour's legal defense fund and this money is a major reason why the church is still standing.
Below is the text of Mr. Principe's letter in its entirety:
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
As you know West Maspeth Local Development Corp. had initiated a lawsuit with Juniper Park Civic Association and community members against the developer of the St. Saviour's site.
Our original purpose was not to disparage anyone, defame anyone or accuse anyone of wrongdoing, it was just to stop what appeared to be an avalanche of people who were determined to remove the last historic, parkland, square block from our community's use and replace it with more homes, cars and congestion. Unfortunately this zeal has gotten out of hand and we need to mend fences and get on with obtaining this ENTIRE piece for our community. Remember, once gone it is never to be available for use again by the community. Please note that this is a unique piece of land in an area full of working class families, not serviced by any parks, or community centers, which are all too far away.
We originally proposed, and still propose, that the land be returned to the Korean Church, based on a faulty sale, as much money be refunded to the developer as possible (we can finagle the rest later) and then we could buy the piece either privately or through the city, for it to become a community center, day care center, and park for the residents of West Maspeth. No one gets hurt and the West Maspeth community would get something it needs as cheaply as possible.
This was not a new idea, this was an idea first advanced by my father 20 years ago when he fought to have the area rezoned to maintain jobs here in West Maspeth. He always spoke of this someday becoming a park for the residents and workers alike to find solace from their hectic lives, just as Frank Principe Park has become for the residents of Maspeth and the workers in the surrounding factories.
We did it for Keyspan because we pulled together, why not pull together here? We are unique because we are a peaceful enclave in this hectic city; let's keep it that way. Please don't let personal pride and stubbornness further erode the wonderful community we live in; put these things aside and also step up to the Mayor's 2030 Challenge to come together and bring this much needed jewel into the crown of our wonderful town of Maspeth.
LEE JAMES PRINCIPE
JPCA is very grateful to Mr. Principe for his dedication to the St. Saviour's preservation effort and in this new year is willing and eager to work with Councilman Gallagher and the Community Board to see that the entire site is converted into a park and neighborhood center as part of the Mayor's 2030 initiative.