Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vision for St. Saviour's Parkland is Unveiled

By Conor Greene

While funding for the project is still up in the air, the Newtown Historical Society has unveiled its vision for public parkland at the former St. Saviour’s Site in Maspeth.

Based on input from area residents, Christina Wilkinson of the historical society has created a rendering for the 57th Road property, which currently sits vacant. “I met with the residents who live around the site, and they listed amenities they would like in the proposed park,” she said at last month’s Community Board 5 meeting.

Among the items suggested are a wrought iron fence around the property perimeter, a landscaped hill featuring a statue and flag poll, walking paths and benches, open space, restrooms, a children’s playground, gardens and flowers and trees, especially along the Rust Street side to buffer the greenspace from noise and pollution from passing trucks.

However, due to questions regarding funding for the property acquisition, the plan remains up in the air. The city Parks Department agreed last year to buy the land if local officials can come up the funds needed for acquisition, and the owner is asking for about $10 million for the property.

Wilkinson was hoping that the state’s Environmental Protection Fund would be the key to securing funding for the land, but that is in jeopardy due to the state’s budget deficit. In a letter to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) last month, State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said the governor’s current plan to close the budget gap would result in suspension of the property acquisition program.

“Governor Paterson has proposed a budget that will place an indefinite moratorium on land acquisition under EPF, starting in the state fiscal year commencing April 1,” wrote Ash in a February letter to Crowley. “If the budget is enacted by the state legislature accordingly, State Parks’ land acquisition activities will be put on hiatus.”

There has since been a push to restore the funding for land acquisition, with local State Assembly members including Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) signing on to a letter being circulated by Robert Sweeny (D-Lindenhurst), who chairs the Assembly Environmental Protection Committee.

The city has refused to release the results of a recent appraisal conducted of the property, according to Wilkinson. However, according to the city Department of Finance, the two lots that create the square-block site have a market value of about $2.5 million, and the owner purchased the site for about $6 million in 2005.

The property was home to a historic 1847 until it was set to be demolished to make way for residential development. Local preservationists, including members of the Juniper Park Civic Association were given permission to dismantle the structure so that it can eventually be rebuilt on land in Middle Village. While the development plans never panned out, the site – which is zoned for manufacturing uses - was recently cleared and leveled for construction.

“It really would be a travesty to see this site developed, because it is historic,” said Wilkinson at the community board meeting.

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