Monday, July 30, 2007

Queens is no Staten Island

Turns out Staten Islanders can't bear to lose their Victory Diner. That was the consensus of the Parks Department, a bank foundation, the Staten Island Advance and borough leaders who've come up with cash and a plan for buying and moving the classic chrome-and-neon restaurant from Dongan Hills to the Ocean Breeze waterfront.

Molinaro has set aside $6 million for the future construction of a "kiddie" amusement park in that area. When Paulo approached him about relocating the diner there, he said it made perfect sense.

Hey, Helen Marshall, how about $6 million towards the purchase of St. Saviour's?

The Richmond County Savings Foundation had the same enthusiastic response.

Hey, Maspeth Federal Savings, how about the same enthusiastic support for a landmark in your own backyard ... oh, wait, you sold the mortgage to St. Saviour's owners because your president thinks the "decrepit" buildings on the site are "not worthy of landmarking".

"The Parks Department has long been a repository for historic structures," said [Commissioner Adrian] Benepe. "We thought we could combine historic preservation with an opportunity to provide amenities to the park."

Oh, fantastic, Adrian! How about pushing to get more parks funding so you can do the same for St. Saviour's?

A vintage diner, saved

This was just a week before:

Borough President Molinaro has built a well-deserved reputation for "thinking outside the box" to improve our quality of life. Here's an extraordinary chance to demonstrate that talent at a relatively small cost to the city.

We urge him and Staten Island's City Council members to get in touch with Parks Department officials and his friends in the mayor's office to seize this fleeting opportunity before it's too late.


Save the Victory

These same officeholders and institutions in Queens can't come together to save a piece of our history the way the SI guys are coming together to save a greasy spoon. All they do here is say how much they would like historical sites in Queens to be saved while they make excuses as to why what is being asked for can't be done. Speaks volumes about who is in control here and whose bidding they are doing, doesn't it? Inaction speaks louder than words.

Photo from Forgotten-NY

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great news for this '47 SI relic! Now if only Bloomie, Benepe, & Marshall would get off their throne...! Beside Maspeth's St. Saviour's & the parcel it sits on, the same holds true for the decaying NY State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows, & the Civic Virtue Statue in Kew Gardens near Queens Borough Hall. Sometimes these politicians, better known as figure heads, need to be reminded where our landmarks are.

Anonymous said...

Maspeth Fed Bank, Pinky, Benepe, Beep Marshall and our "mayor" support St. Saviour's destruction rather than come up with a plan to preserve this most important piece of NYC history !

They don't want to offend the developers who view Queens as the wild west for building or set a bad precedent that might discourage over development in other areas of the city!

Taxpayer said...

Congratulations to the imaginative and energetic Staten Islanders!

Wouldn't it be great if Queens had just 10% of that talent and commitment.

""The Parks Department has long been a repository for historic structures," said Benepe. "We thought we could combine historic preservation with an opportunity to provide amenities to the park."

Benepe said he'd like to see a renovated diner that pays tribute to the oceanfront character of the area."

"Long been a repository for historic structures"?

Benepe has a twisted view of historic. A diner from the 1940s is more historic than a church founded in 1847?

It is truly great that the diner is saved. But, why have Benepe and Bloomberg been giving Maspeth the finger since the first request to save that site for use as a park?

Time to remind Bloomberg and Benepe who's boss!

Anonymous said...

The big difference here seems to be that saving this diner is not costing the city any money. The total costs look to be under $50,000, with the money raised by a local bank and conservatory association. For the city to take on the St. Saviour's site, it would cost tens of millions of dollars of city money.

Anonymous said...

And the High Line is costing a hundred million dollars.

Anonymous said...

The High Line is part of a huge project to build a currently unused portion of New York that will bring in billions of dollars of private funding. It is a smart move by the city on a development that will yield tremendously more in economic activity than it will cost to create a park on the High Line. No one here has stated any plan on how creating a park at St. Saviour's works economically.

Christina Wilkinson said...

A land swap woudn't cost the city anything and a 501(c)3 has been set up to pay for the restoration of the buildings. Blue collar businesses are approaching us and offering to donate their time and materials to fix up the church. The replanting of the trees would be paid for by selling them in memory of loved ones.

There's absolutely no excuse to not save this property. It's not up to us to prove why it should be saved. It's up to the city to prove why they should allow the destruction of our history and building on one of our last open spaces. Let's remember, they are accountable to us, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

The city has no problem thinking "outside the box" when it comes to Manhattan. Meanwhile, Queens gets the same old tired shit lines from the government.

Anonymous said...

"High Line" pimp.....you must be high on something !

Anonymous said...

I'm glad at least one person (Christina) knows how to express her opinion effectively without swearing and insults.
I disagree that it is not up to us to show the city why the property should be made into a park. We are asking the city to step in and acquire property that currently is in private hands and to renovate and maintain it at a cost of millions of dollars. We need to show the city, with more than anecdotal evidence and discussions of historical significance, that the benefits of doing this outweigh the costs and the opportunity costs. You can't expect the city to take action and fork over that much money just because a civic group has made noise. I'm not against a park, but I don't see the current course of action getting us there.

James M said...

"We need to show the city with more than anecdotal evidence and discussions of historical significance"

What exactly do you think is anecdotal? The historical and architectural significance is well documented. Don't you find it interesting that structures that have been totally rebuilt and the apartment houses where hip hop was created are being considered by the city and state for landmarking? This church, despite its alterations, is of far greater historical value.

"that the benefits of doing this outweigh the costs and the opportunity costs"

You can't put a price tag on things such as quality of life and the character of a neighborhood. Imagine what the city would be like if it had not acquired the land for its great parks, both big and small, when it had the opportunity to do so. Generating economic activity is not the purpose of a park.

"You can't expect the city to take action and fork over that much money just because a civic group has made noise."

No, but we should fully expect the city to a) preserve its history according equal standards in all boroughs and neighborhoods, and to b)include the people of West Maspeth in the 2030 Plan instead of patronizing them and telling them to use asphalt school yards and far away parks for their open space.
Why should this be one of the very few neighborhoods left out of the plan, especially when the land is available? That doesn't make any sense. If the city is committing to such a plan, it should put it's money where its mouth is.

"I'm not against a park, but I don't see the current course of action getting us there"

Unfortunately, you may be correct, because what I've been alluding to here is that this is, above all else, an issue of (in)equal treatment.

It has become pretty obvious that the city just simply doesn't want to treat this neighborhood according to the same standards as others. I can only guess that maybe the powers that be see the area as too working class. Maybe they think of it as industrial and forget that a lot of people live here. Whatever the reason, this neighborhood seems invisible to the current administration.

How else do we explain the fact that Bloomberg hasn't offered so much as a comment on the issue, much less a reason as to why this property shouldn't fill a gaping hole in his own plan?

Anonymous said...

Great post James, best one I've seen yet from the pro-preservationist side. I think one other reason Bloomberg is staying clear of this is to stay out of all the mudslinging. If he comments on this issue or supports a particular position, he will be tied in to every news story that will also include insults and accusations relating to preservation, Gallagher, etc. He (or his staff) probably think it is better to let this play out at the local level rather than get caught in a hornet's nest, especially when taking action would cost millions of dollars.

Anonymous said...

"If he comments on this issue or supports a particular position, he will be tied in to every news story that will also include insults and accusations relating to preservation, Gallagher, etc. He (or his staff) probably think it is better to let this play out at the local level rather than get caught in a hornet's nest, especially when taking action would cost millions of dollars."

That's not an acceptable position. He takes positions on much more controversial issues and butt heads over other things. He and Gallagher have been on the opposite side of many issues. He's a developer's best friend. He needs to explain why a diner in Staten Island is more worthy of preservation than an historic church in Maspeth. If he can't take a stand on the issue, it proves he is a weak leader.