Statement from the Historic Districts Council Re: Emergency Press Conference at Saint Saviour's Church in Maspeth, Queens

July 13th, 2007

The ongoing destruction of the old growth forest at the former Saint Saviour's Episcopal Church in Maspeth, Queens demonstrates the continuing lack of concern by certain elected officials in New York City over the importance of this historic site and complex.

Designed by Richard Upjohn and constructed in 1847, Saint Saviour's served in a religious capacity until 2005, when it was sold to a development group (Maspeth Development, LLC). The desecration of this site, including the purposeful neglect and damage done to the Parish House last winter as well as the current clear-cutting of the site this week, is an example of the undercutting of New York City's historic neighborhoods and sites by its own elected government.

By refusing to landmark the church and site, citing that the building had been damaged in a fire in the 1970s and was recently reclad in vinyl siding, the Landmarks Preservation Commission under Mayor Bloomberg has endangered one of the most important complexes of religious builidings in New York City. Jablonsky Berkowitz, a firm which specializes in assessing historic buildings concluded that most of its historic fabric, including decorative wood shingles and other Gothic Revival details, was intact underneath the vinyl siding, easily removed in a day or two. Any Upjohn building within the boundaries of New York City should have been given the utmost consideration by the LPC, which it clearly was not.

By refusing to purchase the church and site for a park and community center, Mayor Bloomberg has denied this community, which is one of the least served by public parkland in New York City, a chance to both preserve its heritage and adaptively re-use a sacred site. Here is a natural place for a park, in a part of New York City that is woefully underserved. It is a two-acre, naturally occurring park. The administration has sat on its hands and done nothing as this special place is being destroyed, despite massive community protests. Additionally, there has been absolutely no public process to determine the future of this special place.

By working solely with the owner/developer – and not with the surrounding community – Councilman Dennis Gallagher has shown that he has been deaf to the cries of the community and the people of Maspeth. Were it to be executed, the “compromise” that has been brokered with the owner/developer will destroy the integrity of the site and profoundly negatively impact the environment of Maspeth. And, his approval, tacit or not, of the destruction of these old-growth trees is abominable.

This is not good government, and it is not good for New York City.