The following was the acceptance speech given by Christina Wilkinson, Chair of JPCA's Committee to Save St. Saviour's, at the Historic Districts Council's Grassroots Preservation Awards on May 15, 2008 at St. Mark's Church in Manhattan:
“Back in 2006 when we learned the church was in trouble and realized that our elected officials, most of our community board, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the president of our town bank were all against the effort to save it, Tony Nunziato, who is here tonight, made a prediction. He stated, 'A lot of powerful people want to see this building come down, so this fight is going to be as grassroots as grassroots gets.' And that it was. Therefore, the name of this award perfectly describes our battle.
Over the past 2 years, the St. Saviour’s saga took so many twists and turns that it seemed like a rollercoaster ride.
We felt all along that the spirits of our forefathers,
the founders of St. Saviour’s Church, were protecting
their sanctuary and guiding us toward saving it. They
also saw to it that certain people who stood in our way
paid a very high price for their actions.
In the 19th century, Congressman James Maurice donated the
land on which St. Saviour’s was built. He hired Richard
Upjohn to design the church and added a restrictive
covenant to the deed, believing that would be enough to
make his gift last forever. The church stood for 160
years before developers, lobbyists and those in power
attempted to take away all that Maurice had given to
When I received word that HDC had chosen Juniper Civic for
a Grassroots Award, the fate of St. Saviour’s seemed
sealed – it was on the fast track toward demolition. But,
after a last ditch agreement with the owner had been made,
St. Saviour’s was carefully dismantled piece by piece and
was sent to storage earlier this month. There is a plan
in the works to restore the materials, rebuild it at
another location and open it as a non-denominational
chapel and museum. This will no doubt take many months,
if not years to accomplish, and during that time, the
Juniper Park Civic Association plans to continue to fight
to save the church’s original site as open space for our
In our entire council district, there is not one building
that has been designated by the LPC. Our elected
officials, past and present, have seen to it that our
history has been obliterated, in return for campaign
contributions and other perks. And historically,
preservation organizations that claimed to be citywide in
focus have paid little attention to issues in boroughs
other than Manhattan. Thankfully, that seems to be
changing, and HDC can take a lot of credit for that.
We’d like to thank Simeon Bankoff, Frampton Tolbert,
Nadezhda Williams, Lauren Belfer, Kristen Morith,
Christabel Gough, Kevin Daley, Kevin Walsh, Jerry Rotondi,
Robert Singleton, James Driscoll, James Trent, Mary
Jablonski, Nancy Cataldi, Henry Euler, Michael Perlman,
Councilman Tony Avella and the late Lee Principe for their
time and effort in helping to bring St. Saviour’s to the
forefront of the preservation movement and for their
support over the past 2 years.
And a special thank you to Paul Graziano for employing
innovative and revolutionary techniques to shine a
spotlight on St. Saviour’s and all historic and
neighborhood preservation efforts, not only in our home
borough of Queens, but throughout the entire city of New
York. Under Paul’s leadership, HDC has gotten stronger,
more influential and more respected. We are certain that
the board, staff and members will agree that HDC has a
bright future with Paul at the helm of the organization.
Two important lessons can be learned from our struggle.
First, no matter how bad things seem, stay focused and
never give up. And the second is that those who rise above
cheap politics generally come out winners while those who
practice it end up with their reputations in tatters.
On behalf of the 1700 families of the Juniper Park Civic
Association, we thank you for this award.”