Community members and civic leaders met at the site on Thursday, June 14, to express frustration that the land sits vacant, despite the fact Maspeth lacks park space.
According to park proponents, the blame is spread over a number of parties, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission failing to landmark the church, the city not securing the land previously, and the current owner of the site refusing to settle on a sale price.
Saint Saviour's Church was built at the then tree-filled plot in 1847. It was sold in 1996 to the Korean Methodist Church for $450,000 and then again in 2005 to Maspeth Development LLC for $6 million.
In 2008, the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the church landmark status. The building was eventually taken apart one piece at a time, and local civic leaders placed its parts in storage, where it sits today.
In 2009 and 2010, the city tried to purchase the site for roughly $7 million, but not enough funds were raised.
Under a Parks Department formula, Maspeth should have 88 acres of park space considering its size. It currently has 12.
“This community desperately needs more park space,” said assemblyman and congressional candidate Rory Lancman, who was at the site on Thursday.
He added that the federal government could also use eminent domain to acquire the space if the city fails to do so.
New York City Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said while eminent domain is not always the favorable option, it would serve well in this instance.
“It has been abused over the years, but a lot of our parkland has been gotten through eminent domain, and this is clearly a really good use for it,” he said.
He pointed out houses near the site that are up for sale, one of which Croft said was owned by former Saint Saviour’s parishioners for 64 years.
“Who can blame them?” he said, adding that homeowners in the area have to live with the vacant construction site that was formerly the church. “We have to get this land back.”