Skala calls for protest of Korean church plans

The East Bayside Homeowners Association is devising plans to combat the construction of a church in a residential Bayside neighborhood, where the foundation is already in the ground. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Nathan Duke

More than 50 angry residents poured into Bayside’s All Saints Church last weekend to voice their opposition to a Korean church being constructed in a neighborhood consisting primarily of one−family homes.

The East Bayside Homeowners Association held a meeting April 21 about the Jesus Covenant Church, which drew residents living close to the property and a number of community leaders. Civic President Frank Skala said the civic should undertake multiple initiatives to halt the construction of the church, at 26−18 210th St. in Bayside.

“I’m serious about keeping a residential neighborhood residential,” Skala said. “If you move in next to a school or a church, you have no right to complain, but if one moves in next to you, you do.”

He said the civic’s problem with the house of worship was strictly from a zoning standpoint.

“This is not about theology and this is not about ethnicity,” he said. “This structure is in the wrong location.”

The original plan for the site was to alter a home that already existed on the property, but it underwent a change of occupancy and use on March 16, according to the city Department of Buildings. The foundation for the church, an as−of−right project, has already been built.

A DOB spokeswoman said the agency was currently auditing the application and that the number of required parking spaces for the site had yet to be determined.

The deed for the property lists Kyung Jin and Kwan Ok Chung as its purchasers, Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld said. The pastor of a Jesus Covenant Church on Flushing’s Francis Lewis Boulevard said the two institutions were interrelated.

Speakers at the civic’s meeting last week said they were adamantly opposed to the church’s construction on the grounds that it was out of character with the neighborhood and that it would cause parking problems for residents.

“We are diametrically opposed to this,” said Paul DiBenedetto, vice president of the Bayside Historical Society. “We advocate for preserving Bayside.”

Cathy Santis said the church’s construction has caused cracks in the foundation of her mother’s house, which is adjacent to the property.

Former CB 11 Chairman Steve Newman had said that the board would attempt to set up a meeting with the church’s property owner. But newly elected Chairman Jerry Iannece said it could be difficult to battle an as−of−right project.

“The law makes it more of a religious issue than a land use issue,” he said. “The idea that a facility can come into a neighborhood without community input is, in many ways, repugnant.”

Skala proposed several courses of action to fight the project, including pickets, complaints to police about construction noise and parking issues, a letter−writing campaign to media organizations or a petition drive.

Two violations have been issued at the site for an expired fence permit and sidewalk that was broken during demolition, the DOB spokeswoman said. In addition, two stop−work orders have been issued at the site since December, but have both since been lifted.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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