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Church drops day care center plans

In the face of intense opposition from the Chair of the City Council Zoning subcommittee, the local Community Board and irate neighbors, a Douglaston church has dropped its plans to build a community facility to house a for-profit day care center.
Now they want to buy the land that Doug Bay residents are demanding for a park, to use for a parking lot.
Aram Cazazian, chair of the board of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, confirmed that the church had given up on the day care center idea. “The community doesn’t want a day care center here and we want to be part of the community,” Cazazian said, adding, “We’re trying to be co-operative, but nobody came to talk to us. I wonder why.”
On Saturday, June 2, more than three dozen residents of Douglaston gathered at the corner of 39th Avenue and 234th Street, near the church in the northeast Queens neighborhood known as Doug Bay, to express their opposition to any private use of the land.
Long-time resident Leslie O’Kane was adamant in her opposition to the church plan, saying, “Don’t do this - we don’t need a parking lot, we need a park.”
Cazazian called the parking lot proposal a “win-win situation,” because of neighborhood complaints about churchgoers’ parking habits. “What’s the benefit of a park when people have their own land” he pondered. Cazazian invited the community to take the opportunity to get to know the church congregation, saying “all are welcome here.”
Anne Jawin of the Doug Bay Civic Association said, “The church has been a terrible neighbor - they advertise their basement as a catering hall.” Jawin pointed to two trucks parked immediately in front of the church, where the basement was being rented by a movie production company that day. “Old people and young mothers with strollers are stuck,” she said.
“Under no circumstances will I vote to give this land to the church, when there’s no park here,” City Councilmember Tony Avella, who sits on the Land Use Committee, told the group. “It’s a small thing to do to fulfill the Mayor’s 2030 plan - the one and only chance for this neighborhood,” he said, referring to Bloomberg’s recently announced “PlaNYC” proposal.
“This is a perfect opportunity for Mayor Bloomberg to put his words into action and give our neighborhood a playground,” said Susie Petruccelli, who lives close to the church.
The land was transferred to the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) after plans to extend 39th Avenue were scrapped. Since the area is not considered suitable for “affordable housing,” HPD must dispose of it. As the church sits on the neighboring land and proposed a community facility, they could buy the land at a deep discount.
Avella told The Queens Courier that City Parks Commissioner Andrew Benepe told him at a mid-March meeting at M.S. 67 in Little Neck, “If you give it to me, I’ll take it,” regarding the proposed parkland. “I’ll work in the Council and with the community to secure funding for this park.” Avella said.

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