By Joe Anuta
The city is less than $100,000 away from beginning to acquire the land for a park at the site of the old St. Saviour’s church in Maspeth.
The city Parks Department said that between $50,000 to $70,000 is needed to begin the legal process by which the city purchases land, called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. If the city gets the money, it will begin the process, a spokeswoman said.
The funds to actually buy the land, at 57-40 58th St., are still incomplete, but since the ULURP process can take months or in some cases over a yearï»¿ to run its course, Maspeth activists have repeatedly asked Parks to begin the process now while the other funds trickle in.
In documents supplied to TimesLedger Newspapers, negotiations between activists and Parks officials show that the city is divided about how to proceed with the plan.
On one hand, the city would like to have the entire sum of money ready to purchase the property before beginning the ULURP process. If the project is fully funded, the ULURP money can be drawn from the overall capital amount.
But there is a problem with the St. Saviour’s site.
The city had the property appraised, and it was valued at roughly $5 million. By law, the city is not allowed to pay more than what it determines in market value, but the developer, Maspeth Development LLC, is asking for about $7 million.
The city is still willing to acquire the property, but the extra $2 million would need to come from politicians’ coffers or private funds.
Activists estimate that between Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) there is $5.25 million allocated for the park.
In her discretionary spending for this year, Crowley allocated $1.1 million to build a new free-standing building onto the Ridgewood public library, but according to Lydon Sleeper, Crowley’s chief of staff, if some of the library money is needed to supplement the park, then it can be transferred. But the price difference could be met with money from the city Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The City has estimated that the property is worth between 80-85 per square foot and the City is committed to paying that,” Crowley said in a statement. “However, the owner is not willing to sell for that price and it my understanding is that we cannot get the owner to negotiate without the DEC money.”
Crowley’s office told TimesLedger Newspapers in early Julyï»¿ that the entire $1.1 million sum would go toward the acquisition of the park.
But Christina Wilkinson, who has spent years advocating for the park, wanted to know why the money was not put toward the parkï»¿ in the first place, since Parks appears hesitant to start the ULURP process without full funding.
“Putting money under libraries is not wise if you think it might have to be moved in the future,” she said. “There may not be a future if the funding isn’t there now.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.