The city issued a permit to Sano Construction Corp., a contractor hired by site owner Maspeth Development LLC, in late February to demolish the church, located at Rust Street and 57th Road in Maspeth, by hand or mechanical equipment, a city Buildings Department spokeswoman said.But the city's Environmental Protection Department halted demolition at the site on Feb. 28 after a neighborhood resident complained that the building contained asbestos, a DEP spokeswoman said. The DEP could not be reached for comment.Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said the group would continue its fight to save the 160-year-old church."We know that if you keep fighting, things can happen," he said. "The church could still be moved intact. At this point, we're just trying to get the owner to agree to not knock it down."The developer could not be reached for comment.Middle Village's All Faiths Cemetery recently agreed to house the church on its property if the civic could pay to transfer the building from its current locale. A spokesman for state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) said the senator was working on securing $100,000 to transfer the church, while Holden said state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) has secured $50,000.The developer, who had 185 trees removed from the site last summer and demolished the site's parsonage in December, hired demolition crews to begin removing windows and part of the property's roof on Feb. 27. Work was halted soon afterward as the DEP began inspecting the site for asbestos.Holden said the city should never have granted a demolition permit to the developer in the first place."It's like self-certification," he said. "As long as the architect says it's okay, [the city] doesn't check the building. There are all these city agencies and they are not communicating with each other. This developer should be under a microscope. This particular site has been issued one violation after another. It just shows that the system is bad."Juniper Park Secretary Christina Wilkinson said the group was attempting to contact the developer to ask him not to knock down the building while the civic obtains funds for the transfer.State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) said he had spoken with the developer, who told him that destruction of the property was imminent because the battle over the building had gone on so long."He's lost a tremendous amount of money on this and he felt since, this is the last minute, that there was nothing that could be done," Maltese said.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@times
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