The often-divisive fight for open space in Maspeth has stalled once again.
Martin Luther School, which was considering selling a third of an acre of land to the city for a park at 61st Street and Maspeth Avenue, rejected the idea for now.
The school shot down the idea of selling the land to the city—instead hanging onto it for the possibility of expanding the school. Officials, however, are hopeful the property can still host some public uses.
Last November, the Department of Parks and Recreation dropped its bid to acquire the 1.5-acre former site of St. Saviour’s church in Maspeth, which frustrated local parks advocates.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley floated the idea of the much smaller Martin Luther lot as a replacement—saying it was better to work with a willing seller than use eminent domain to forcibly buy the St. Saviour’s site.
After the supposedly easy target turnout out to be more complicated than predicted, open-space advocates are frustrated.
They want the focus put back on St. Savior’s.
“This was a perfect example of an elected official not working with the community,” said Geoffrey Croft President of NYC Park Advocates.
Croft claimed Maspeth residents received the runaround instead of any progress.
“We’ve lost six months of potential negotiation,” he said.
Zachary Feder, a Parks Department spokesman, said even though the Martin Luther School’s current board voted down the acquisition, there’s potential for future negotiations.
“…We are hopeful that a future vote may approve such a sale,” he said.
But activists say it’s a setback for a project they were never completely sold on to begin with.
“Martin Luther was never a substitute for St. Saviors,” Croft said.
The field Crowley wanted to buy from the school is about a third of an acre big—almost five times smaller than the St. Savior’s location.
At a community meeting on Monday night, Crowley told attendees that negotiations were on hold with Martin Luther School.
Lydon Sleeper, her chief of staff, said the school indeed voted against selling the land but might be interested in negotiating a community use for it.
Crowley also tried to offer a comfort on Monday by saying she is working with the Parks Department to create two “pocket parks” in Maspeth.
They would be small parks or community gardens taking up empty plots of land owned by the city near I.S. 73 and Maspeth Town Hall.
“It’s a new popular way of finding green space in urban centers. I’d like to make sure that Maspeth has the first of a few like that,” she said.
When asked, Crowley added that they hadn’t found any similar opportunities in West Maspeth near the St. Savior’s or Martin Luther School sites.
By Jeremiah Dobruck