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City plans more talks to buy St. Saviour site for park

Warehouse construction has slowed on the St. Saviour’s site in Maspeth as the city is planning yet another round of negotiations to acquire the property and build a park. But community activists say money is not the most pressing issue.

According to a city source, the owner of the property, at 57-40 58th St. in Maspeth, approached the city and is trying to strike a deal, although the two sides previously came up with property values that differed by millions of dollars.

But Christina Wilkinson of the Newtown Historical Society said money negotiations should come later since the legal process for the city to acquire the land could take years.

“They’re doing it backwards, and it’s putting the whole thing in jeopardy,” she said. “They really need to start now ... this process takes a long time.”

The process is called the Universal Land Use Review Procedure and, according to the city Parks Department web site, agreeing on a price is not the first step.

The ULURP process includes many planning stages and plenty of reviews by committees. Only an initial start-up cost is required, a cost that the Parks Department said it had in a letter to the Juniper Park Civic Association late last year.

The letter stated that after donations from Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), the city said it had the money to begin the process.

But it has not set the wheels in motion — a decision that baffled Wilkinson.

“You didn’t have the money, but now you have it. So what’s holding it up?” she said.

In the latter half of the ULURP process, after roughly one year to 1 1/2 years of planning and approvals, the city would have to look at funding, according to the department. If the funding is less than 75 percent of the total cost, the city then tries to bridge the funding gap through elected officials, or by simply acquiring the property through eminent domain.

But the project has seen two recent boons to its funding aside from lawmakers’ coffers.

It is a possible secondary recipient for the Newtown Creek Mitigation Funds, which will be used to finance green projects around the toxic waterway. St. Saviour’s could get $1.2 million from the funds.

In addition, the state Department of Transportation has offered to build a park on the site as part of the Kosciusko Bridge reconstruction, which according to Wilkinson, should dramatically reduce the overall cost of the project.

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

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