Sunday, November 29, 2009

Federal Funds for Urban Parks on the Way?

On October 6th, Alboi Sires (D) from NJ introduced the Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act (H.R. 3734). which would bring much needed funding to urban parks. The Bill currently has 87 sponsers and is making its way through various committees. One major omission from the Federal stimlulus plan passed in February (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) was the lack of funding for park projects. Much of NYC's park system for instance was built from federal funding under the WPA program under Robert Moses in the 30's.

A few important questions arise: If passed how will these funds be prioritized and spent. NYC has come under intense criticism for its lack of community based planning and consultation in its park and open space projects. Also will the final Bill contain provisions which would protect these investments and if so how.

Text of Bill:

"To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish and carry out an urban revitalization and livable communities program to provide Federal grants to urban areas for the rehabilitation of critically needed recreational areas and facilities and development of improved recreation programs, and for other purposes. "

Two Federal programs — The Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — have provided tens of millions of dollars to NY City parks over more than three decades .

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program provides matching grants to States and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The program is intended to create and maintain a nationwide legacy of high quality recreation areas and facilities and to stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and maintenance of recreation resources across the United States.

LWCF came under fire for its handling of Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx as part of the Yankee stadium development project. The feds allowed public parkland improved with LWCF funds in the 70's to be given to the NY Yankees to build thier new stadium. By law, any park receiving money from the LWCF must remain a park in perpetuity, unless the National Park Service decides that new replacement park land is of equal (or greater) value, usefulness and location. Proposed projects must also consider "all practical alternatives" before parks are seized.

But rather than conducting its mandated review, the National Park Service issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" based purely on the state's and the city's flawed analysis and project "goals and objectives." Evidence came out that they had conspired with both the city and State parks. NYC Park Advocates and Metro learned that for more than a year, National Park Service officials were exchanging e-mails not only with the city and the state but with the New York Yankees.

The Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) program was established in November 1978 by Public Law 95-625, authorizing $725 million to provide matching grants and technical assistance to economically distressed urban communities. The purpose of the program is to provide direct Federal assistance to urban localities for rehabilitation of critically needed recreation facilities. The law also encourages systematic local planning and commitment to continuing operation and maintenance of recreation programs, sites, and facilities. The program's funding was stopped in 2002.

Read More:

Washington Considers Funding Parks to Rebuild Cities
gothamgazette - November 30, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Forest Park rape suspect in custody

A man suspected of rape and sexual assault in Forest Park this year is in custody, police said, according to the Queens Chronicle. Carl Wallace, 29, from Brooklyn, was arrested on Oct. 28 after cops suspected he is the same man responsible for at least one of the three sexual attacks that took place in or just outside the park within the past five months, the 102nd Precinct confirmed this week. Wallace was denied bail and has been charged with first-degree rape, predatory sexual assault, first-degree robbery and unlawful imprisonment in the first degree.

Wallace’s DNA was found to match that of a 29-year-old woman who was raped on Sept. 24 at around 3 a.m., according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office. The victim was reportedly dragged at knifepoint to a wooded area near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Park Lane South, where the defendant allegedly raped and threatened to stab her if she screamed. After the attack, the man stole cash, an iPod and identification from the victim’s bag before fleeing.

Read More:

Forest Park rape suspect in custody
Queens Chronicle - November 25, 2009 - by Lisa Fogarty

Woodside Residents want to Reclaim Park

Many Woodside residents claimed at Tuesday night’s 108 police precinct meeting that immigrants and day labors are illegally entering Hart Playground (65th and 37th Ave.), frightening local children and leaving the bathroom in a state of disorder, according to the Sunnyside Post.

The problem is particularly acute every Tuesday when a mobile food service truck from St John’s Bread of Life dispenses food outside of the park, residents said. Police were told that 250 people show up for a meal and then disperse all over the playground. They said half naked men could be found in the bathroom– bathing and washing their clothes. The plumbing is often backed up, resulting in a urine-soaked floor.

Read More:

Woodside Residents Want to Reclaim Park
Sunnyside Post - November 25, 2009

Veteran Vendor bust Met beef

A disabled vet, Dan Rossi, was busted for disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic as part of an enforcement sweep in front of the museum, according to the NY Post.

"Veterans Day is over. They've stopped waving their flags and now it's back to screwing the vet," Rossi, 69, said moments before he was arrested.

"If this were a law, they'd have been nailing us for it every day before this. They made this up this morning."

Police and Parks Department officials would not say why Rossi and others have been allowed to sell there for months without incident.

Read More:

Veteran Vendor bust Met beef
New York Post - November 25, 2009


A Prominent Collection at the Met: Food Carts
New York Times - August 21, 2009

A Pushcart Vendor Defies a City, With Persistence and Hot Dogs
New York Times - December 19, 2007

Citing financial difficulties, Boy Scouts looking to sell Pouch Camp On SI - Seeking Conservation Easement For 124 acre Property

(Left): Pouch Camp, Staten Island. The Boy Scouts of America are looking to sell the camp due to financial problems. (SI Advance file photo)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Citing financial turmoil, the Boy Scouts of America is exploring the full or partial sale of Pouch Camp.

If a transaction materializes, however, the organization is hoping to secure an arrangement that would still allow Scouts and the community to use the wooded parkland in Sea View.

In discussions with the Staten Island Greenbelt Conservancy and city, state, and federal elected and appointed officials, the Boy Scouts have sought a "conservation easement" at Pouch Scout Camp, which would preserve the camp land as green space.

Through the easement, the Scouts would relinquish their rights to develop the property but it would permanently preserve the land as open space and prevent the potential of housing or commercial development. It would allow Scouts and the community to continue to use the property.

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Citing financial difficulties, Boy Scouts looking to sell Pouch Camp
Staten Island Advance - December 2, 2009

Did The NYPD Alienate Parkland in Front of Metropolitan Museum of Art Without State Legislation?

(Left): Hot dog vendor and disabled U. S. Marine Corps Veteran Dan Rossi is arrested yesterday in Front of the Metropolitan Museum as part of a police crack down on vendors without permits. A 19th-century law allows war veterans to vend without permits in certain areas including parks. (Photo: Dan Brinzac)

According to vendor Dan Rossi, the NYPD said the area in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 79th street and 84th street was no longer city parkland but instead a city street. According to Mr. Rossi, this is the second time since August that the Bloomberg administration and the NYPD have made this charge. By law, any change of parkland ownership would require an act of State Legislation, with permission from the City Council - to alienate the land. A Walk In The Park checked, but was told that no such legislation has even been presented.

Mr. Rossi was arrested on Tuesday for the first time after battling the city for more than fifteen years. By his account the city violated the First, Fourth Amendments and section 1983 of the Civil Right Act. More on this story to come.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

David Yassky on Development & Three Promised Parks

After eight years, Councilmember David Yassky learned that the city can't be trusted.

Regarding Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning:

"Certainly one lesson," he told the NY Observer, "One lesson of that is: whatever neighborhood improvements are supposed to go with a big development plan should be done up front--should be done before it's passed. The commitment should be made enforceable in some way. And if not, then don't bank on it." It took him eight years to figure that out? Many communities, including those around Yankee Stadium, certainly could have told him that...

And on artificial turf? According to the article:

"The Astroturf was very green and slippery, like a field made out of plastic leis. It didn’t seem ideal for any use, though Yassky told me the city parks department has been using it for years, because real grass is hard to maintain and gets muddy."

The Parks Department couldn't have said it better themselves. Adrian -um, David- forgot to inform the Observer reporter that grass is extremely hard to maintain especially when elected officials refuse to allocate funds to do so.

Read More:

Yassky's Bargain: A Departing Councilman in Search of a Quo for His Quid
New York Observer - November 23, 2009

Manhattan Beach Civic Group Puts Parks Dept. “On Notice" Over Dangerous Concrete Road Barriers

Frustration over massive concrete planters along Oriental Boulevard’s median is riding high for Manhattan Beach Community Group, which put the Parks Department “on notice” during their November meeting, according to Sheepsheadbay

The 67 year-old group sent a lettter to Adrian Benepe on November 18. In the letter the group put the blame for future accidents squarely on the shoulders of the city agency and was written after the group was advised that it would make the city accountable in future lawsuits.

The group, with the help of Community Board 15, has spent the better part of two years fighting the tall concrete planters, which they say blocks the view of oncoming traffic for turning vehicles and can be attributed to several accidents, including one recent death. Parks Department officials agreed earlier this year to move the planters by the end of September, but later ditched the plans by saying they’re “too heavy.”

"The removal of the planters that were placed by the Parks Department on the center median on Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn is imperative. The enclosed photographs taken from inside a car on November 7, 2009, confirm the extremely dangerous condition for drivers who cannot see oncoming vehicles when turning. There was a recent death as well as multiple accidents attributed to the height and the location of these planters.

In your September 2009 letter to our organization, you stated that the planters would be removed from the mall by the end of September. To date, no action has been taken."

Read More:

MBCG Puts Parks Dept. “On Notice”
Sheepshead Bites - November 23, 2009

Manhattan Beach Community Group

Monday, November 23, 2009

Commodore sunk! Park repairs to skip the ballfields in favor of front lawn

The makeover of Commodore Barry Park is a single, not a home run, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

Yes, a renovation is on its way — but the repairs will skip the much-used baseball fields in the busy park between Vinegar Hill and Fort Greene.

Indeed, the shoddy condition of the ballfields is why Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene) asked for $2.3 million to allocated in the first place, she said.

But the Parks Department said much more money would be needed — $5.7 million more, in fact — so the project now only consists of laying new grass, planting flowers and trees, and adding lights and an amphitheater in the park’s eastern end along North Elliott Place between Flushing and Park avenues.

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Commodore sunk! Park repairs to skip the ballfields in favor of front lawn
The Brooklyn Paper - November 23, 2009

Plan to open Pier 6 area at Brooklyn Bridge Park put on ice until spring

(Left:) Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1, which is currently under construction, was scheduled to open at the end of the year, but will now open in mid-January.

Wait till next year.

A large section of Brooklyn Bridge Park - with a playground, beach volleyball courts and a dog run - that was scheduled to open by the end of the year won't be ready until spring, the Daily News has learned.

"That's outrageous," said Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association President Sandy Balboza. "The winters are mild. I would go there with my dog. People are always visiting the waterfront."

Merchants on Atlantic Ave. want Pier 6 opened, because it would attract more shoppers to the area, Balboza said.

Officials from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp., a state agency, said they delayed the opening of Pier 6, near the foot of Atlantic Ave., because a harsh winter could wreak havoc on the sandy playground and volleyball courts, and few people are expected to use them when the temperature drops.

Read More:

Plan to open Pier 6 area at Brooklyn Bridge Park put on ice until spring
New York Daily News - November 23, 2009 - By Mike McLaughlin

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Artist Arrested on Highline, DPR's Mea Culpa

(Left): Robert Lederman's display of artwork on the High Line on Saturday afternoon.

Robert Lederman, president of the street artists rights group A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists Response To Illegal State Tactics) was arrested for selling art at the High Line esplanade from the display (left). The High Line is located in the heart of the city's art community.

The arrest was made on Saturday afternoon by Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP). It has long been established that selling art in NYC Parks is protected by law. Mr. Lederman has won 5 Federal lawsuits on street artists First Amendment rights for which millions of dollars has been paid out in legal fees and settlements. According to Mr. Lederman, he was repeatedly threatened with arrest by Friends of the High Line (FOHL) employees. FOHL did not return a call for comment.

Below is a Press Release from Robert Lederman and a follow up statement from the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).

Press Release
November 21, 2009

Robert Lederman, president of the street artists’ rights group A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics) was arrested on the 14th Street section of the Highline Park on Saturday, at approximately 3:30 PM. Lederman was issued 5 summonses, handcuffed and taken to the 6th Precinct by PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers, after employees of the Highline Park called police. This is Lederman’s 42nd arrest.

Lederman was on the Highline displaying and selling original fine art prints of his NYC scenes. Between 1994 and 2001 Lederman won 5 Federal lawsuits on street artists’ First Amendment rights. Among them was a 2001 Federal Appeals court ruling (Lederman et al v Giuliani), which established that visual artists can sell in any NYC park without a license or Parks permit, based on First Amendment freedom of speech.

Summonses were issued for the following: Vending without a Park permit; failure to comply; disorderly conduct; failure to comply with directions of officers and unauthorized vending.

Lederman was released from the 6th Precinct around 6:30 PM and made the following statement:

“The Parks Department has done a very poor job of educating their employees about the legal issues involving First Amendment rights, artists and parks. Before any of these summonses were issued or any arrest was made I repeatedly explained to Highline employees and PEP officers that a court order was in effect and that artists freely and legally sold in all NYC Parks without a license or permit. I also showed them articles from the NY Times and NY Post describing this exact court order.

The wealthy people who paid to create the Highline seem to have forgotten that it is still a public park. The US Constitution remains in effect there, as do the street artists’ rights described in numerous 2nd circuit Federal Court orders. These court orders are constantly being violated by the Parks Department. This is a blatant example of contempt of court, false arrest and chilling of free speech in the name of privatization.”

Robert Lederman

The usually press-friendly Friends of the High Line refused to comment on the incident and instead left the DPR to fend for itself.

Parks Department Statement

“The High Line is a unique public space, a thin elevated corridor at less than three acres with pathways as narrow as eight feet wide in some places. Many activities are prohibited. These include biking, skateboarding, throwing a baseball or a Frisbee, or walking a dog. The High Line can receive as many as 25,000 visitors on a busy day, walking along its long linear surface surrounded by fragile new plantings. Mr. Lederman and other vendors are able to ply their trade in hundreds of New York City parks and on hundreds of miles of city streets, where visitors can linger and enjoy their wares.” —DPR Statement issued November 23, 2009.

Our prediction - All the tickets will be dismissed and Mr. Lederman will sue for false arrest and city's taxpayers will forced to pay, again.


Judge Bars Permit Requirement for Art Vendors
NY Times - August 11, 2001

NY Times on Parks Dept artist permit ruling

NY Post on street artist Federal Court ruling

Street artist Federal court rulings

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cunningham Park Land Grab: Residents Wait "Decades" for Parks to Act


The DPR recently sent 47 letters to Queens homeowners whose property illegally encroaches Cunningham Park. The property owners were ordered to immediately remove fences and all obstructions. They have thirty days to comply.  This comes almost a year and a half after (see Daily News story below) these revelations were made public.  Fox 5's John Deutzman does a follow up from his story in July.

Parkland Grab, Part 2

Updated: Friday, 20 Nov 2009, 2:29 PM EST

Published : Tuesday, 14 Oct 2008, 8:10 PM EDT

MYFOXNY.COM - Some homeowners are being ordered to give huge chunks of their backyards back to New York City. It's a story Fox 5's John Deutzman broke in July, and he says some people are having a hard time facing the reality that it wasn't their land in the first place. The Parks Department admits it should have noticed this problem sooner. The department received a tip and started an investigation.

Fences make bad neighbors.  City to warn Oakland Gdns. homes that encroach on trai

New York Daily News - July 20, 2008 -  By Barry Paddock 

Caption: Homeowner at Vanderbilt Pkwy. and 217th St. has a backyard fence that may extend out onto a city-owned nature trail. Photo by Frank Koester

HOMEOWNERS in Oakland Gardens lucky enough to have properties that flow into a city-owned nature trail with a colorful history may be forced to rein in their expansive backyards.

The Parks Department believes the yards - some boasting swimming pools, tool sheds and jungle gyms - may cross property lines and encroach on the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.

Results of a land survey of the area ordered by Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski are due this week.

The parkway, one of the country's first concrete roads, is now a pedestrian and bicycle trail that emerges from Cunningham Park. A narrow strip of woodland runs alongside it.

"Anyone who takes that away takes away natural beauty from the park," said Lewandowski.

The city Law Department will send letters to homeowners found to be over the limit, she said, and they will have 30 days to respond in writing.

Park advocates support the move.

"They've fenced off property that's not theirs," said Marc Haken, president of Friends of Cunningham Park, which has raised money to preserve the parkway.

"They saw what their neighbors did and they took a little more and a little more," Haken said. "You've heard that saying, 'I give you a finger and you take it all the way up to my shoulder?' "

The survey examines some 45 homes along Richland and Kingsbury Aves., tree-lined residential streets next to the parkway.

"I don't know where the [property] lines are," said a homeowner on Kingsbury Ave., who declined to give her name. Her backyard fence extends farther into the parkway than most on her block.

She said she has lived by the parkway for more than 25 years and couldn't remember if the metal fence had already been there when she moved in.

Some residents, confident their yards are within property lines, criticized their neighbors.

"I ride my bike on the path all the time," said Michael Cohen, 55, an advertising creative director. "That someone encroaches on the parkland - that p----- me off."

Community Board 11's district manager has mixed feelings about the survey. Susan Seinfeld said residents call to complain of litter along the parkway, not encroachment. "If these people are keeping it nicer, that's a plus," she said of the homeowners. "Fences are another story."

The parkway is a remnant of the Long Island Motorway, the first highway to use overpasses to avoid intersections. Created by William Vanderbilt Jr.,  it ran 45 miles from Queens into Long Island.

Vanderbilt envisioned an auto raceway and a quick route for wealthy New Yorkers to their Long Island estates. Prohibition-era bootleggers used the route to escape police, earning it the nickname Rum Runners Road.

Robert Moses forced the private toll road out of business in the 1930s by creating the Northern State Parkway, and reopened the motor parkway as a path for pedestrians. In 2002, the Queens portion was added to the New York State Register of Historic Places. It is now part of the 40-mile Brooklyn-Queens Greenway.

After receiving a complaint from an avid user of the parkway this year about intruding fences, Lewandowski, a Queens native and veteran of the Parks Department of more than 25 years, ordered the survey.

"It may be small in terms of acres," she said of the disputed land, "but it's just not a good precedent for people to expand their property."


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Keep The Trees, Lose The Tram Parts - Roosevelt Island Blackwell Park Master Plan Work Suspended Due To Community Opposition!


Photo: Aerial View Image Of Blackwell Park From Judith's Gallery

A reader of this post from Southtown wrote:
... my husband and I are concerned about the proposals for Blackwell Park. I especially enjoy the tall trees that block the view of the power plant, and the tot park and basketball courts which bring different members of the community together. My husband plays basketball at the courts. At times we sit behind the Blackwell home and just enjoy the trees and serenity. We are disappointed that this site has been chosen for a possible historic tram center when there is so much space in Southpoint that could be utilized. Or, why not put the tram close to the current visitor's center?

There is little we can do to stop the building of new residencies where the land has already been sold, but I hope that planners are responsible enough to keep island sustainability interests in mind (as far as commercial space, population and transportation needs, etc), and that our park preservation - the trees, game fields, and existing structures - be somewhere in the forefront.

Read More:

Keep The Trees, Lose The Tram Parts - Roosevelt Island Blackwell Park Master Plan Work Suspended Due To Community Opposition!

The Roosevelt Islander - November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teen's throat slashed by glass-encrusted kite string - from Flushing Meadows/Corona Park - City Sued.

The South Asian sport of kite-fighting — featured in the book and movie "The Kite Runner" — nearly cost a skateboarding Queens boy his life when a razor-sharp wire sliced his throat, according to a lawsuit.

According to the NY Post 12- year-old Jared Kopeloff was skateboarding outside his Flushing co-op apartment building in October 2009 when he was clotheslined by a downed kite string.

The glass-encrusted wire ripped into the boy’s throat and left him scarred from ear to ear from a wound his lawyer said took 400 to 500 stitches to close. The boy also lost two lymph nodes in the accident.

Read more:

Teen's throat slashed by kite string
New York Post - November 16, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Heritage Field One Year Behind - So Far. EDC & Mayor's Press Office Continued Amnesia Over Schedules

Demolition of Yankee stadium and the building of Heritage field, originally slated to open in 2010, are more than a year behind schedule—yet representatives from the EDC and the Mayor's press office continue to say they are "On Schedule."

According to the final environmental impact statement issued for the stadium project, "The demolition of the existing stadium is expected to last about 15 months beginning in the third quarter of 2008 and finishing during the third quarter of 2009."

However, according to NYC Park Advocates, the city did not even put out the request for qualifications — the first step in finding contractors to be invited to prepare bids for the deconstruction — until Fall of 2008, when the project was scheduled to begin.

The structural and mechanical demolition permits for the stadium were not issued by the Department of Permits until October 31, 2009 — more than a year after demolition was supposed to be completed.

Not to be deterred by facts, for months the Bloomberg administration has attempted to rewrite history: at a replacement park update meeting on October 7th in the Bronx, John Seaboldt, the program manager for AECOM, the engineering firm handling the demolition of the stadium, said the "project is on schedule." When told the project is more than a year behind the original schedule he responded, "It's on the schedule that I've been given."

David Lombino, a former reporter for the NY Sun and now a spokesperson for the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the agency overseeing the demolition of the old stadium, said everything is proceeding according to schedule, according to the Village Voice (August 17, 2009).

Possibly feeling left out of the deceit, City Hall got into the act:

"There has been no delay in the deconstruction schedule and none is anticipated," City Hall spokesman Andrew Brent told the Daily News on October 13, 2009.

And on November 14, EDC was at it again, this time trying to spin NY 1 (Bronx Residents Wait For Parks At Old Stadium Site.)

A particularly sad moment in the NY 1 report came when reporter Dean Meminger speaks to a hapless State Senator José M. Serrano who happened to be ambling around the track.

"I think it is important that we elected officials and the community as a whole stay very vigilant on making sure the parks department and the DOT do everything they said they were going to do." Elected official vigilance? As the neighborhood surrounding Yankee stadium and the city's taxpayers can attest, if there is a single word one would not use to describe the actions of the elected officials regarding this nightmare project, 'vigilance' would be it. And the DOT? HUH?

José M. Serrano of course should not be mistaken for his equally uniformed father, Congressman José E. Serrano, who in 2006 was stopped by security for trying to jog on the old track in Macombs Dam Park which had already been seized by the Yankees - an action his son and his colleagues dutifully secured. How's that for elected official vigilance!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

City mulling acquisition of St. Saviour’s For parkland in Queens

(Left): Preservationists say the city and elected officials are making progress toward acquiring the former St. Saviour’s property in Maspeth.

As preservationists continue to clash with the owner of the land where the 162-year-old St. Saviour’s Church once stood, the city may be making its first tentative steps toward acquiring the property, according to

The land at 57-40 58th St. has been on the market since 2006 when groups like the Juniper Park Civic Association began advocating for the preservation of the wooden structure. Recently the land owner, Maspeth Development, switched to a new real estate company. Manhattan-based Berko & Associates has listed the property for $8.5 million.

Borough President Helen Marshall’s office contacted the real estate company Oct. 14, said Newtown Historical Society President Christina Wilkinson. Marshall’s office also contacted the nonprofit Land Trust Alliance about getting the land put on the list for the $60 million Environmental Protection Fund allocation the state plans for the 2009-10 fiscal year, Marshall spokesman Dan Andrews said.

Read More:

City mulling acquisition of St. Saviour’s
November 12, 2009 - - By Jeremy Walsh

St. Saviour's Church Site Gaining Steam To Become City Parkland?


Spurred by problems at the former St. Saviour's Church property in Maspeth, local leaders have stepped up efforts to turn the site into parkland, according to the Daily News.

They just have to get the owner to agree.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said on Tuesday she and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley are trying to get a grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund to purchase the 1.5-acre property at 57th Road and 58th St.

Neighbors have flooded the city's 311 hotline with complaints about crumbling walls, inadequate fencing and other problems at the site, where the owner, Maspeth Development LLC, has been leveling the ground with heavy construction equipment.

The city Buildings Department stepped in last week and slapped the owner with violations and a partial stop work order. Since then, a chain link fence has been erected around the vacant lot, which once housed the church.

But civic activist Christina Wilkinson charged the city dragged its heels and only took action after she posted video and photos of dangerous conditions on the Internet, including the deteriorating retaining wall and a backhoe swinging its shovel just a few feet from parked cars.

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