By Anna Gustafson
Community Board 8 passed a resolution last week that brings the Sri Chinmoy Centre Church’s plan to purchase city land considered sacred by members one step closer to reality.
Board members unanimously passed the proposal to de-map Glenn Avenue in Jamaica Hill, which must happen before the city can sell the land to the Jamaica Hill church. Church members have maintained the Glenn Avenue area for the past 30 years, when the place had originally fallen into disrepair.
“It was a terrible eyesore, and Sri Chinmoy adopted it and became a very good steward of it,” said Steve Konigsberg, chairman of the CB 8 Zoning Committee. “They sort of turned it into a utopia.”
Glenn Avenue is located next to land the group already owns on which there is a tennis court and a meditation garden.
“It’s sacred area for us because our teacher used it,” said Ashrita Furman, the Sri Chinmoy Centre Church’s treasurer. “Because years ago we cleaned it up, it’s now a nice, open green space and we want to keep it that way.”
Sri Chinmoy was a spiritual teacher from India who died in 2007.
Church members have wanted to own the area, located around the intersection of 85th Avenue and 164th Street in Jamaica Hill, for decades, but Furman said they have been caught up in bureaucracy and have been unable to purchase it. The area was once riddled with problems, when it was a gathering spot for drug addicts, but 30 years ago church members cleaned it up despite the fact the city would not sell it to them.
“Once the city stopped using it 75 years ago, when it was used for a trolley track, it fell into disrepair and people would go there and engage in illegal dumping and drug activity,” City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said. “People would use it as a lover’s lane. There would be mattresses back there. It was a blight, but then Sri Chinmoy cleaned it up at their own expense. They have protected the area from these tawdry people.”
After church members gave up on trying to get the land from the city, they continued to maintain the area. Three years ago, Furman said the center became nervous the area would be developed because developers had started inquiring about purchasing the land.
“Our meditation area is right next to it, and we don’t want any developments there,” Furman said. “We want to keep it serene and quiet.”
Now that CB 8 has approved the plan, the proposal will go to the borough president’s office. Ultimately, the Council will have to vote on it.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.