St. Saviour's: Trees Gone but Activists Still Have Hope
From the Queens Times Ledger
Rest of St. Saviour’s trees axed
By Nathan Duke
Maspeth community activists were dealt a blow last week after workers cut down the remainder of the 185 trees that are believed to have stood on the site of historic St. Saviour’s Church for more than 100 years.
Back in mid-July the neighborhood mourned the removal of nearly three quarters of the trees, many of which were thought to have been between 60 and 100 years old. Workers removed the remainder of the trees last week.
But City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has been fighting alongside the Juniper Park Civic Association and other community activists for the preservation of the 159-year-old church, said the neighborhood had not given up on trying to save the site.
“Obviously, we’ve lost part of the natural environment that existed there for 100 years, but new trees can be planted and the site can be saved,” he said. “I don’t see why these developers won’t work with the community to set up something that helps the neighborhood rather than just try to make a quick buck.”
Maspeth Community Development LLC, which plans to construct apartment units at the site, could not be reached for comment.
The civic filed a lawsuit in early 2006 against the Richmond Hill-based developer on the grounds that James Maurice’s 1878 deed for the property limits its usage to church or community use. But in August 2006 the State Supreme Court overturned a restraining order to prevent demolition on the property.
The developer applied two years ago for a permit to rezone the church’s site, but the application has not yet been certified by the Department of City Planning.
A spokeswoman for the city Buildings Department said a stop-work order issued at the site for a defective construction fence in May is still in effect. But the $5,000 fine from the incident has not yet been paid, she said.
No additional violations have been issued at the site, but the DOB has been monitoring the site to make sure the order is not being violated, she said. The developer was allowed to chop down the trees on the property, however, because it is privately owned, she said.