The Juniper Park Civic Association and Four Borough Neighborhood Alliance held a joint press conference on Saturday, May 7th 2006, which was attended by more than 100 neighborhood residents. Councilman Tony Avella was the featured speaker, and he issued a warning to the developer who wants to tear down Maspeth’s historic St. Saviour’s Church in order to build 70 or more housing units.
“I called the developer’s attorney this week, and I told him that if his client tears down this church, I, as chair of the zoning committee, will see to it that he never gets a zoning change for any property he seeks one for,” said Councilman Avella to the cheers of the crowd.
St. Saviour’s Church was founded in 1847 atop a hill in Maspeth, Queens, on land donated by U.S. Congressman and Maspeth pioneer, James Maurice. Renowned architect, Richard Upjohn, who designed the landmark Trinity Church in Manhattan, also designed St. Savior’s in a style copied from a church the Maurice family saw while on a trip to Europe.
Christabel Gough of the Society for Architecture of City stated that she will be resubmitting a request for evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission based on the fact that the church and parsonage are unique Upjohn works. (The JPCA’s original application was rejected by landmarks in March due to the church having been altered after a 1970 fire.) She showed the crowd a book written by Upjohn that detailed the proper way to build a wooden country church and parsonage in his signature Gothic Revivalist style. The sketches in the book show designs almost exactly like those of the St. Saviour’s building complex.
There is a stipulation in the original deed stating that the land may only be used for the purposes of a church. Councilman Avella last year introduced a bill to the City Council that would allow deeds to be registered with the Department of Buildings, who would have the authority to enforce any restrictive covenants. Currently, civic associations must bring expensive lawsuits in order to ensure that deed restrictions are enforced.
“If we have to file a lawsuit to save St. Saviour’s, we will, no matter what it takes,” said Juniper Park Civic Association President Robert Holden.
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi also attended the press conference to lend his support toward saving the church. Councilman Dennis Gallagher did not attend the press conference and did not send a representative.
Robert Furman, President of the Four Borough Neighborhood Alliance, stated, “Take note of which of your elected representatives did not turn out today and send them a message next time they run for office by not voting for them.”
St. Saviour’s Church is located at 57-40 58th Street in Maspeth, Queens