Thursday, August 7, 2008
St. Saviour's Relocation Moving Ahead
Cemetery Gets State Agency’s Approval
by Conor Greene
The process of rebuilding the historic St. Saviour’s church at a local cemetery is moving forward now that a state agency has approved using part of the property for the project.
The state Division of Cemeteries reviewed the proposal to move the 160-year-old church from its former home on Rust Street in Maspeth to a plot of land owned by All Faiths Cemetery at 69th Street and Juniper Valley Road in Middle Village. In a June 24 letter, the division ruled that permission has been granted because “the location within the cemetery is not usable as burial grounds.”
The historic structure, designed by noted architect Richard Upjohn, was threatened after the city issued a demolition permit to Maspeth Development, LLC, which owns the Rust Street property. The Richmond Hill-based developer agreed to allow the Juniper Park Civic Association to remove the church from the property after the civic association had struck a deal with All Faiths Cemetery to house the structure there.
Dan Austin Jr., president of All Faith’s Beautification and Restoration Program, which is handling the church project, said Tuesday that Montrose Surveying Company recently completed a survey of the property free of charge. An architect specializing in historic preservation projects is in the midst of a feasibility study to determine exactly where on the site the church should be placed.
It cost the civic association about $140,000 to dismantle the church, which is currently being stored in several trailers in Maspeth. It is expected to cost about five million dollars to rebuild the structure on the cemetery property. State Senator Serf Maltese was able to secure $100,000 through the Empire State Development Corp grant program, and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi provided an additional $50,000. That means the cemetery is relying on obtaining donations from individuals and private businesses to eventually complete the project, said Austin, Jr.
“We’re taking it one step at a time,” he said. “This thing is going to be a very intricate and in-depth study on how to restore an old building, which is roughly seventy percent all there. “I think it’s going to be an outstanding project, but it’s going to take a while and is going to be an ongoing thing.”
He said that “the key to success is seeing some action come springtime” in terms of beginning to rebuild the structure on the cemetery property. The next step is an August 20 meeting with the architect. “By then we will hopefully have different studies for the juxtaposition of the church on the land,” he said.
Christina Wilkinson, a member of the JPCA who led the fight to save the church, noted that the land is still for sale, despite the fact that the civic was given little time to move the church since the owner claimed to have a buyer lined up. She said that she will continue to fight to have the land turned into a park, which is needed in that part of Maspeth.