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Middle Village cemetery offers to host church losing home

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The Historic Districts Council, a citywide nonprofit preservation group, had recently called on the city to designate the 160-year-old church as a landmark after the property owner retained an expediting company to file permits in January to demolish the building. Community activists have been fighting to preserve the property for nearly two years."This church has been waiting for a miracle to save it for two years and it looks like it may finally have found one," said Christina Wilkinson, a Juniper Park Civic Association member who has led the fight to preserve the church. "It's going to be a lot of work and research to see how this will be done. But we have an offer of land, which is a really positive thing."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. The developer of the site could not be reached for comment. But the city's Buildings Department said the developer had not yet applied for a demolition permit at the site.A DOB spokeswoman said the developer would need to retain a licensed professional to apply for a building permit to relocate the building to another site.The Juniper Park civic 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 demolished the site's parsonage in December.Civic leaders said they believed the property's developer would be pleased that he would not need to pay for the razing of the church building if it were removed from the site."I am sure this development company would be happy to have the building taken off their hands," civic member Tony Nunziato said.The civic would need to pay for the transfer of the property from Maspeth to Middle Village, as well as secure all necessary permits from the city, said Dan Austin, president of All Faiths. But he said he was pleased to have the church on the cemetery's property."We would be honored to have such an historic building on our property," he said. "We're a history-minded organization, so we're delighted to do this."Austin said the church would be housed on the cemetery's property right off 69th Street in Middle Village, between Metropolitan Avenue and Elliot Avenue. He said the proposed site is shaded by trees and includes no graves.Juniper Park President Robert Holden said the civic would use money set aside by neighborhood elected officials to pay for the transfer. But Wilkinson said the move was still preliminary and no details have been finalized as to whether the building would be moved intact or dismantled. Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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