Things took a turn for the bizarre in Maspeth when, after a July 1st, 2007 rally calling for the city takeover of St. Saviour’s Church to create a public park that would preserve the structure and add much-needed green space to the neighborhood…the property’s developer, Maspeth Development LLC, sent in the chainsaws and cut down most of the trees on the rectangular property.
The act was seen as a blatant intimidation tactic by Maspeth Development LLC, which has been battling the Juniper Park Civic Association in the courts over the fate of the parcel, which contains Richard Upjohn’s country church he built in 1847 and has been an unofficial landmark and a point of pride for Maspeth for decades. A 1970 fire forced the remodeling of major portions of the church, and the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has refused to entertain requests to landmark the property, shielding it from demolition.
A series of stop work orders has thus far prevented the developer from removing the church, but not before beginning demolition that has left it hanging on by a thread. Maspeth development LLC has since made the parcel available for sale for $10 million and or rent for $20K a month.
Many local advocates maintain that a local City Councilman, Dennis Gallagher, has been complicit with Maspeth Development LLC in the destruction of the grounds, since he has been advocating mixed use for the property, including housing that would surround the church. The compromise would likely mean more “Fedders buildings” that would take the place of what used to be a green oasis. A local tagger feels some ambivalence toward the City Councilman.
But there are many hands that have led St. Saviour’s to this pass; Community Board 5; Borough President Helen Marshall; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are all aware of the state St. Saviour’s is in.
In the case of the Democrats on the above list, they see a rundown church in a part of town that is not majority Democratic and not affluent. And therefore they ignore it. Gallagher is a Republican, and Bloomberg is what is most advantageous for him to be whenever. Your webmaster won’t even link to their offices; they’ve made it tacitly clear that St. Saviour’s will get no help from them. Of all NYC’s politicians, only City Councilman Tony Avella, who represents northern and northeastern Queens, has steadfastly supported the efforts to preserve and restore this 160-year-old (in 2007) legacy church.
The Juniper Park Civic Association has spearheaded saving the church (earning some opposition from benighted neighbors) and the Historic Districts Council has been steadfast. Most other NYC agencies have been out to lunch.
The stage is set for increasing heat toward developers of junk architecture from the communities they are invading. When challenged they feign ignorance toward the damage they are causing or play a race card.
It is ironic to mention it but Maspeth Development LLC’s latest power play has made the church more visible and shows the damage that was done before a stop-work order was issued in 2006.
In the early 2000s, when it was controlled by a Korean congregation, St. Saviour’s maintained much of its country-church aspect, as it must have had when it opened in 1847. It was remodeled in 1970 after some 12-year-old arsonists set fire to it.
By mid-2007 Maspeth “Development” LLC had stripped the siding and denuded the parcel of its trees.
A trio of arched windows remains from its plummier days on the 58th Street side.
A flyer advertising the July 1 rally flutters near a former Maurice family house on Rust Street. US Congressman James Maurice donated land across the street where St. Saviour’s was built. The church had previously met at DeWitt Clinton’s house: the former mayor, governor and Erie Canal planner lived nearby.
Your webmaster could care less if no other Maspethian other than those in the Juniper Park Civic Association supports saving this church (which isn’t the case). It can be argued that the majority of Americans opposed 1964’s Civil Rights Act, and there’s no question that the majority of baseball owners wanted nothing to do with Jackie Robinson. This church should be saved as part of a public park and it should be landmarked. It is more than Maspeth’s legacy, it is New York City’s.
Sometimes the majority is wrong, or as my high school English teacher used to say, the masses are asses.
Forgotten NY Correspondent and JPCA member Christina Wilkinson relates the St. Saviour’s story so far.
Trees Topple, But Church Will Stay Standing: Locals [Queens Chronicle]
Steve Garza has some photos of St. Saviour’s and vicinity from the spring of 2007, before all the trees were chopped down, here.
In an effort to post more pages (possibly even daily) I’m going to present scenes from one to three block radii around town, a microview of a neighborhood’s Forgottenhood. We’ll have to see if I have the time. Here are a couple of scenes near St. Saviour’s.
58th Street opposite St. Saviour’s, formerly Hill Street, has a Hopperesque aspect.
Boat and shed at triangle formed by Grand Avenue and 57th Drive. The shed in the back has roosters, horseshoes, the Marlboro man, and the American and Polish flags. You turn corners in Maspeth and see Polish halls, Lithuanina prayer towers, and landlocked boats.
Both of these are on 58th Street. The first, with the faded red, white and blue paint, likely obtained those colors in the Bicentennial year 1976; the second, in the tragic year of 2001.
There’s a lot more of these hydrants here.