R’Wood Site Eyed For Church Relocation
Still looking for a place to reassemble St. Saviour’s Church, community activists have floated the idea of bringing the former Maspeth house of worship to the site of the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House in Ridgewood, but no plans are final.
The 150-year-old church was dismantled in 2008 from its former home at the corner of Rust Street and 57th Road and placed in storage while the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) and the offshoot Committee to Save St. Saviour’s looked for funding to resurrect and restore the structure.
All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village had previously agreed to allow the JPCA and the committee to rebuild St. Saviour’s on a plot of land adjacent to 69th Street and Juniper Valley Road. Meanwhile, about $2 million in funding was allocated by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley toward the project.
But Robert Holden, JPCA president, told the Times Newsweekly on Monday, June 11, that the city Department of Cultural Affairs declined to support the project at the All Faiths Cemetery site. He claimed that the city agency hesitated at allowing the Committee to Save St. Saviour’s to operate and oversee the church’s reconstruction since “it was a news organization with no track record” of operating a historic site.
While searching for alternatives, Holden said, the architect in consultation with the JPCA and the committee regarding St. Saviour’s reconstruction reached out to the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society (GRHS) about bringing the church to land adjacent to the Onderdonk House.
The GRHS is currently in the midst of planning the reconstruction of the roof of the Onderdonk House, located on a parcel of land at the corner of Flushing and Onderdonk avenues. Linda Monte, president of the GRHS, told the Times Newsweekly that the society had previously talked with Woo regarding cost estimates.
Monte stated in an e-mail to this newspaper that the society “couldn’t determine if it was feasible and needed more information.” In addition with reaching out to other city agencies, the project would also need to be approved by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission since the Onderdonk House is a registered city landmark.
“Our top priority is to replace the roof, and that needs to be completed before we take on any major capital investment,” Monte added.
Holden, along with JPCA members and those on the board of the GRHS, recently met and surveyed the Onderdonk House site. He told this newspaper that the site “is a perfect fit,” as the church could be reconstructed on a hill overlooking the Onderdonk House.
In fact, he stated, the site itself bore a striking resemblance to St. Saviour’s former home, which was also nestled on a hill looking out toward the New York City skyline.
“It looks like it could work there, but there’s still a lot to be worked out,” he said.
Holden acknowledged that nothing is final and that the Onderdonk House site is just one of many options the civic group is considering for the reconstruction of St. Saviour’s. Another plan would involve the private raising of funds to build the church at the original All Faiths Cemetery site.
“Our main goal is to get this reconstructed, and the sooner the better,” he added.
Meanwhile, plans to create a public park on the St. Saviour’s site died last year after the city gave up its pursuit of the property. A combined $4 million in funding was allocated toward the acquisition, but the site’s owners, Maspeth Development LLC, declined to sell to the city.
Advocacy groups had pushed for the city to use its powers under eminent domain to acquire the site of a park, but no such action was taken. Warehouses are currently in the process of being built on the former St. Saviour’s property.
Council Member Crowley told members of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) civic association at its June 4 meeting that she was in the process of negotiating a deal to acquire a lot owned by Martin Luther School at the corner of 61st Street and Maspeth Avenue for the creation of a new public park.
She additionally stated that she would pursue funding for the creation of “pocket parks” at unspecified locations in the neighborhood.
A New York Daily News report published last Tuesday, June 5, however, quoted Martin Luther School Headmaster Randall Gast as stating that while the school is not interested in selling the property-which is about one-third of an acre in size- the school is “open to a dialogue” on opening the lot for community purposes.