Rolling hills and foliage don't exactly come to mind when one thinks of New York City, but green spaces do exist in the Big Apple. Case in point: St. Saviour's Church in Maspeth, Queens. Some call the two-acre area on which the church is located "a bit of country in the city." However, St. Saviour's is now under the threat of demolition by developers Maspeth Development LLC.Built in 1847 by architect Richard Upjohn, St. Saviour's Church is a wooden structure that some call "Carpenter Gothic." Yesterday a grassroots group announced it has found a site on a nearby churchyard for St. Saviour's. "We're at the 11th hour," says Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, which sued Maspeth in 2006 to delay demolition. "It's a miracle it's still standing because they filed a demolition permit two years ago."In 1997, a Korean Methodist Church bought St. Saviour's and in 2005 sold it to the Maspeth Development Corporation. In spring of 2006, the developer announced plans to destroy the building and build 70 new residences on the site, much to the outrage of preservationists and Maspeth citizens who are rallying to nominate the building as a landmark.
However, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission recently deemed the church ineligible for landmark status due to extensive repairs made after an accidental fire in the 1970s."The church is altered beyond recognition," says Elisabeth de Bourbon, commission spokeswoman. "We first evaluated the building in 1995 and then in 2001, and the commission determined on both of those occasions that the building does not meet criteria for designation as an individual New York City landmark; the original fabric was highly altered. We visited the site again in May 2006, and our staff of very qualified researchers and historians all agreed that it still did not meet our criteria."Some city activists criticize the commission's decision. "The alteration phrase is a hoax," writes Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, in an e-mail. "In St. Saviour's case, it has not been ‘altered beyond recognition,' as the [commission] often states, while playing favoritism. Some buildings have been landmarked in Manhattan with greater alterations at designation time, and some of have been entirely rebuilt and designated, not containing any of their ‘original fabric.' This is a double standard."
- Jeesoo Park
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