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Preservation group backs St. Saviour’s landmarking

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The Historic Districts Council, a nonprofit preservation group that puts pressure on the city to designate neighborhoods in the five boroughs as historic districts, is urging the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold a hearing where borough residents can argue for the preservation of the church."I think this is a significant landmark for New York City," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the HDC. "This is above and beyond a neighborhood issue. We've been supportive of preserving St. Savior's for a long time, but when we learned about the pre-filing for demolition permits, we knew the clock was ticking. The Landmarks Commission needs to step up to the plate and have a hearing."Bankoff said that Revolutionary War artifacts were discovered at the site in the 1990s and that there was a possibility that Native American remains could be buried on the property.Neighbors of the property, located at 57th Road and Rust Street in Maspeth, received notification in mid-January that Expedite This, a neighborhood expedition company, had been retained by Richmond Hill's Maspeth Development LLC, the developer of the property, to obtain demolition permits for the site.According to the notification, demolition would take place within five days of the notice and was scheduled to be performed by Maspeth's Always Fast Inc. Javier Marsico of Expedite This had said he expected the building to be knocked down by January, but the structure remained standing at press time.The developer could not be reached for comment. The city's Buildings Department said the developer had not yet applied for a demolition permit at the site as of Monday.The Juniper Park Civic Association, which previously failed to convince the city to landmark the 160-year-old church, filed a lawsuit against the developer in 2006 on the grounds that James Maurice's 1878 deed for the property limits its usage to church or community use. The State Supreme Court later overturned a restraining order that prevented demolition at the site.The developer removed 185 trees, many of which were between 60 and 100 years old, from the property last summer and contracted Always Fast Inc. to demolish the site's parsonage in December.Robert Holden, Juniper Park's president, said he was angry that the city had not intervened to save the property."There's no priority in the Bloomberg administration to landmark buildings in Queens," he said. "We've tried to do everything we could, but we wish the politicians had done more. We wish they'd battled alongside us."Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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