Hope dies for Maspeth park

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Community activists had hoped a new park would take the place of the old St. Saviour’s Church site in Maspeth, but warehouses will be constructed instead.

The state Department of Transportation would have built the park as part of the upcoming Kosciuszko Bridge construction.

The state often offers parks and other amenities to the communities on either side of a new bridge in exchange for enduring the inconveniences of the construction process. According to the DOT, the state had expressed interest in putting a park on the site after it was approached by numerous members of the community, like Tony Nunziato.

“It would be nice to have an open space there. You’re not taking away from anything commercial,” he said. “If the city buys the property, [the state DOT] will build everything. That spot would be perfect.”

But the state can only build on government property, and the spot is privately owned by developer Scott Kushnick, who could not come to an agreement with the city to sell the land.

The city could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t know that they are coming up with the numbers he is looking for,” Nunziato said. “They want to buy it at a reduced price.”

And negotiations have reached a standstill for Kushnick.

“I’m not thrilled about it,” he said. “This is my worst case scenario and it is the community’s worst case scenario.”

The saga of the lot dates back several years. Various plans to develop housing have fallen through. St. Saviour’s Church, a turn-of-the-century wooden structure that originally stood on the plot, was landmarked then slated to become part of a housing development but then eventually dismantled. It now sits in storage at a nearby cemetery.

The construction process for the warehouses has already begun on about a quarter of the property, and many members of the community held out hope that the remainder of the land would be used for the park.

But several million dollars separated what Kushnick wanted for the property and what the city was willing to offer..

“Anything would have better than what we’re doing now,” he said. “But four years later, I had to do something. I’ve lost a ton of money on this property and I can’t afford to lose any more. I’ve got to develop.”

Kushnick said that he had tried different ways to work out a deal with the city to buy the land.

“I tried. I came up with various payment structures. It didn’t have to be all at once because they didn’t have all the money at once,” he said. “We talked about doing something temporarily and in the next budget period they could have budgeted for the remainder of the land and figured out how to keep my head above water. But at the end of the day, their appraisers came back and said this is what we’ll offer. And it wasn’t anything.”

Nunziato also blamed the city for not mustering the cash to buy the property.

“Really, it shouldn’t be a thought process,” he said. “Everybody in Manhattan, if they want a park, they get a park.”

And with the nascent development in Long Island City and parts of western Queens, Nunziato said the city should be planning for the long term.

But the community wants to see a park in the spot at any cost, and have even called on the office of City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) to use eminent domain to seize the property.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:56 am, October 12, 2011
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