By Nathan Duke

The city's Historic Districts Council will honor the Juniper Park Civic Association at a ceremony in May for the group's fight to preserve Maspeth's historic St. Savior's Church, which will now be moved to a Middle Village cemetery after facing demolition.

The civic will be the only borough group to be honored by the council, a nonprofit advocate for preserving the city's 80 historic districts. The ceremony will take place at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery in Manhattan.

Council President Paul Graziano said the civic was able to preserve the church with little help from the city or the borough's elected officials. Queens elected officials, including Borough President Helen Marshall, have more recently stepped in to provide funds for the transfer.

“It's a battle for an extremely important building,” he said. “Here's a group that is not only fighting the good fight with no support from the city or elected officials, but that ultimately managed to come up with a way to protect the building.”

The civic began moving pieces of the building off the church site, located at 57-40 58th St., last week and the building's removal and storage could be complete as early as May 6. The building would later be reconstructed on a part of All Faiths Cemetery's property at 69th Street and Juniper Valley Road in Middle Village.

President Robert Holden said he was proud that the civic was being recognized by the Historic Districts Council.

“It's quite an honor,” he said. “This has been a rollercoaster ride. It will go down as a great victory for the neighborhood.”

The civic began the fight to save the 160-year-old church two years ago, when its leaders filed a lawsuit against Richmond-Hill developer Maspeth Development, which owns the site, on the grounds that James Maurice's 1878 deed for the property limited its usage for church or community use.

Demolition appeared imminent after the city issued a permit in February to a contractor allowing it to tear down the building. The developer removed 185 trees, many of which were believed to be between 60 and 100 years old, from the property last summer and knocked down the church's parsonage in the fall.

But the developer has recently agreed to give the civic one month to move the church's building. Elected officials, including Marshall, state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), have secured a total $250,000 for the transfer.

The Historic Districts Council will also honor two Brooklyn preservation groups and a blogger from that borough, City Councilwoman Jessica Lapin (D-Manhattan) and the Dumbo Neighborhood Association.

“These advocates are the foundation of the preservation movement and their efforts benefit everyone who lives, works or visits New York City,” said Simeon Bankoff, the council's executive director.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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