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City mulling acquisition of St. Saviour’s

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As preservationists continue to clash with the owner of the land where the 162-year-old St. Saviour’s Church once stood, the city may be making its first tentative steps toward acquiring the property.

The land at 57-40 58th St. has been on the market since 2006 when groups like the Juniper Park Civic Association began advocating for the preservation of the wooden structure. Recently the land owner, Maspeth Development, switched to a new real estate company. Manhattan-based Berko & Associates has listed the property for $8.5 million.

Borough President Helen Marshall’s office contacted the real estate company Oct. 14, said Newtown Historical Society President Christina Wilkinson. Marshall’s office also contacted the nonprofit Land Trust Alliance about getting the land put on the list for the $60 million Environmental Protection Fund allocation the state plans for the 2009-10 fiscal year, Marshall spokesman Dan Andrews said.

Getting St. Saviour’s on the list would require the support of elected officials who cover the area, including state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who said he wanted to research the fund before throwing his support behind it.

“We have to make sure there are no strings attached,” he said. “We still want to make sure that the community, the residents would have input as far as the future fate of the property.”

Wilkinson said the next step is for the city Parks Department to ask the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for an appraisal of the land.

In the meantime, she and others have taken to monitoring the progress of construction equipment at the site. A partial stop-work order was slapped on the property last week after a retaining wall collapsed during excavation work, but it appeared to have been lifted by Monday.

A DOB official said the developer will have to get an engineer’s report and remediation plan to address the retaining wall problem.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Wilkinson said. “We just keep calling it in, calling it in and they keep sending me the same thing. If I tell them they’re starting before 7 o’clock, then what’s the purpose of coming at 9?”

The city’s interest in the site appeared to have begun this summer.

In an Aug. 28 letter to a Ridgewood resident, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wrote that “while we could not justify the forcible acquisition of the site through condemnation, we would consider purchasing the land if the current owners are now willing sellers.” The letter was a milestone for civic leaders in the area who previously understood the Parks Department was not interested in the property.

The church was built in 1847. The same Episcopal congregation worshiped there until the mid-1990s, when it disbanded. A Korean church then bought the property and held services there until 2002, when it sold the land to a developer.

Preservationists succeeded in getting the church dismantled and, with the help of Marshall and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), are raising the funds to rebuild it at All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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