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Activists put halt to city’s work on old site of St. Saviour’s

The city Department of Buildings has ordered contractors to remove these piles of debris that have been sitting in the construction site at St. Saviour's for months. Photo courtesy Christina Wilkinson
By Joe Anuta

Ongoing construction at the old St. Saviour’s Church site was stopped by the city last Thursday, after activists who want a park built on the site complained about outstanding violations.

The city Departments of Buildings and Sanitation both sent inspectors to the site, according to city officials. Sanitation ordered the contractor at the site to remove dumpsters full of waste by the end of the week, but Buildings brought the construction of several warehouses on the 1.5-acre lot to a halt after activist Christina Wilkinson issued a complaint.

“I should have done that back in May,” she said.

Wilkinson and other residents keep a vigilant watch over the site, and in the preceding weeks appealed to elected officials for help in getting the park project going and make sure the current construction is legal.

“We’re running out of time. We’ve staved off development for awhile,” she said. “It is time to do something.”

According to Wilkinson, residents received lackluster results from politicians following a May 21 rally.

“Nobody is saying no, so I would expect more from the electeds at this point,” she said. “[Elizabeth] Crowley is our city representative. This is really a city issue.”

But a spokesman for City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said that she is working with city officials and other politicians every day to try and make the park a reality.

“We’re still committed to making this a park,” said Chief of Staff Lydon Sleeper. “And we’re still optimistic that we can get the entire park.”

Crowley has been working with Borough President Helen Marshall, the city Parks Department and other officials to come to an agreement to purchase the land, he said.

Wilkinson worries the current development on the property will make the park less likely, and began complaining to the city agencies herself last week.

Sanitation initially visited the construction site and reported no illegal activity last week, but this week found that construction debris from another site was being stored in dumpsters, according to spokesman Matthew Lipani.

Lipani stressed that the site was not being used as an illegal transfer station and that the dumpsters contained no garbage when inspectors went to the site before.

But Wilkinson said the garbage has been there for months and has several photos of refuse in the dumpsters and construction debris on the ground.

Inspectors from Buildings shut down the entire site for unsafe excavation Friday. The contractor did not have a guardrail near a hole and did not adequately shore the walls of holes at the site.

The department also ordered the contractor to clean up piles of debris on the site.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo issued a statement about the shutdown.

“My office staff in the Middle Village District Office had contacted the city Department of Buildings in May 2011. We believe if there is a stop-work order dating back to 2009, it should be enforced and there should be no further excavation or work done on this site,” the statement said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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