Friday, June 22, 2012
Lancman calls for eminent domain at St. Saviour's
From The Forum:
Assemblyman Rory Lancman stepped into the City Council district of one of his rivals Thursday to advocate the use of eminent domain to buy the former St. Saviour’s Church property in Maspeth.
For more than five years, neighbors and parkland advocates have lobbied the city to turn the boarded-up property into parkland. It’s currently a dirt lot with a warehouse tucked in a corner.
Last week, Lancman and a few backers took the chance to criticize Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the Department of Parks and Recreation saying they have failed to serve the neighborhood’s needs.
“What we’re looking at behind us is not just an eyesore and a terrible waste of resources, but a physical representation of a monumental failure on the part of government to take care of the needs of this community,” Lancman said, standing in front of plywood fencing surrounding the 1.5-acre lot.
Lancman is competing in a Democratic primary for the 6th District congressional seat against Crowley and Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
For the past few years, the owner of the property was unwilling tosell the land despite the $3.5 million dedicated to the prospect from Crowley and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.
When Crowley pulled her portion of that funding and the Parks Department dropped its bid for the plan in November, some activists were furious.
Lancman cashed in on that sore spot by calling the press conference Thursday.
“The long and short of it is there was a window of opportunity when the city could have purchased this property and turned it into a park,” Lancman said. “And through a series of mistakes and omissions and just bad judgment the city failed to do so.”
Mirroring the call of about eight parks advocates and neighbors behind him, Lancman said acquiring this parkland would be a textbook case in which to use eminent domain despite its abuses elsewhere.
He pledged he would use the political leverage available to him to influence the city’s hand if he’s elected to Congress.
He also said he wouldn’t rule out using eminent domain on a federal level to claim the area as United States parkland.
From the Queens Chronicle:
Crowley’s campaign declined to comment, but wearing her City Council hat she has said numerous times that eminent domain could be troublesome for a number of reasons, including the fact that the city is authorized to pay no more than the appraised $5 million for the parcel.
She has warned that legal fees, the cost of also acquiring and knocking down the existing warehouse on the site and other things could push the cost millions higher.
Critics at the press conference expressed certainty that Maspeth Development Corp., which has been asking a reported $7 million for the site, intentionally threw up the warehouse in a deliberate effort to jack up the price.