By Anna Gustafson
The Sri Chinmoy Centre Church in Jamaica Hills is asking the city to sell the organization land it considers sacred and has already cleaned up after drug addicts plagued the area.
Church members are hoping the city will de-map and sell them Glenn Avenue, located next to land the group already owns on which there is a tennis court and a meditation garden.
“It’s a sacred area for us because our teacher used it,” said Ashrita Furman, the Sri Chinmoy Centre Church’s treasurer. ï»¿“Because years ago we cleaned it up, it’s now a nice, open green space and we want to keep it that way.”
Church members have wanted to own the area, located around the intersection of 85th Avenue and 164th Street in Jamaica Hills, 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 Furman and Gennaro said the center’s quest to buy the plot seems to be gaining momentum. The church has received support from the Department of City Planning; legislators, including Gennaro and state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows); the Jamaica Hills Civic Association; and Community Board 8’s Zoning Committee. All of CB 8 was expected to vote on whether or not to support the church’s proposal this week, after which it would go to the borough president’s office and ultimately the City Council would vote on it.
“Their application to the Department of City Planning has been certified, which is a big step,” Gennaro said. “It means every city agency has looked into the site and made a determination they’ll never have a use for it.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.