JPCA received a phone call from a neighbor of St. Saviour's Church on the morning of December 9th. He stated that there were workers on the property who were ripping out the windows in the rear. JPCA President Bob Holden called 911 and responded to the scene with me.
When we arrived, we found a vehicle on the property and 5-6 workers inside the parish hall, swinging away with axes and crowbars. The police who arrived on the scene asked us to produce the stop work order. We did not have it with us, so we asked the police to have the workers come out and produce their work permit, as we believed that none had been applied for. The police refused to do that.
Tony Nunziato was hard at work at Enchanted Florist, but when he was called upon to help, he didn't hesitate for a second. He looked up the stop work order on the Department of Buildings' website, printed it out and soon arrived at St. Saviour's with his son, Anthony. He turned the printout over to the officers. They claimed that since the fences were locked, they could not enter the premises, and called their sergeant.
While waiting for Tony, I had called Councilman Dennis Gallagher to notify him that there was demolition activity taking place despite the deal he had made with the owners. He said he would call them to find out what the story was. Minutes later, he returned my call and asked to be put on speakerphone with the police officer. He explained to him that one of the owners told him that no one had been authorized to enter or work on the property, and therefore the workers were trespassing and should be arrested. The Councilman arrived at St. Saviour's minutes after Tony did, as did Sgt. Krohley, the same sergeant who responded to the scene of our press conference on December 2nd.
After arriving, Gallagher spoke via phone with the other owner, who first said he authorized the workers to enter the property to "replace the windows" and then said they were there to "board up the windows" in order to prevent further entry of raccoons and squirrels who had taken up residence inside. It was noted that the workers were removing the windows and mouldings instead of simply boarding them up, and that they had no nails, wood or glass in their possession.
Gallagher told the owner that they were violating the stop work order, and the owner claimed that it was lifted when the court handed down its decision. It must be noted that the temporary restraining order was lifted by the judge, not the DOB stop work order.
Officers eventually did gain access to the property and ordered the workers to cease activity and vacate the premises. No arrests were made. JPCA will follow up to make sure a police report is filed and will notify the Buildings Department that their stop work order was violated.
Councilman Gallagher remarked that this was a stupid move on the owners' part considering they are planning to go before the community board to ask for approval of a rezoning application which will allow them to build multi-unit dwellings on the grounds. This company has violated many building codes and has violated the stop work order multiple times.
This latest action means St. Saviour's is now further threatened – this time by the elements, which may soon include snow. They may be stopped from physically damaging the property, however, "demolition by neglect" is still a legal option for those looking to destroy our history.