Borough Board hears case for church expansion

James Chin, a consultant for the Korean Central Presbyterian Church of Queens in Bayside, presents at Borough President Helen Marshall's land use hearing the church's case for legalizing construction it completed more than a decade ago. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

A representative of a Korean church in Bayside appeared before Borough President Helen Marshall’s land-use hearing last week to ask that she recommend the legalization of an addition made to the church completed in 1998.

James Chin, a consultant representing Korean Central Presbyterian Church of Queens at 58-06 Springfield Blvd., said the church did not know until 2009 that it needed to have a certificate of occupancy in order to do the work. The construction wrapped in 1998 and included the addition of a gym and the addition of a balcony to increase the building’s occupancy by 200 people.

“We extended a wall which was a noncompliant side wall,” Chin explained. “I think the architect made a mistake. He didn’t realize he needed the setbacks.”

The city building code allows for the construction of a one-story community facility less that 23 feet above the curb, Chin said, but the gym stands tall at 28 feet — 5 feet out of code — which he said is necessary for it to accommodate local schools’ sports practices. He said the sanctuary is also 35 feet — 10 more feet than what is allowed under a separate code.

In order to make the construction legal retroactively, he is hoping to attain a variance, the ultimate fate of which will lie with the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which will look at the application after Marshall rules on whether or not to support it. Marshall was not present for the portion of the hearing when it was discussed, but spokesman Dan Andrews said Tuesday she “is looking favorably” on the church’s request.

Community Board 11 voted Feb. 7 to support the church’s application by a vote of 26-7 with three abstentions. At that meeting, Chin said the church was not aware during the period when the construction took place that it did not comply with zoning requirements, adding that the building was self-certified and had been issued a construction permit by the city Department of Buildings. He also said at the CB 11 meeting that the church has the approval of the nearby Bayside Senior Center, in order to show that the church has support in the community.

Henry Euler, a CB 11 member who voted against approving the variance at the Feb. 7 meeting, spoke out at Marshall’s hearing in his role as first vice president of the Auburndale Civic Association against Chin’s request.

“What happened here was a case of neglect by the architect. It’s a case of self-certification and in the end it impacted the surrounding community,” Euler said. “If the person is allowed to get away with it, then other architects may feel they can do the same. There should be very harsh consequences for the architect — he should either lose his license or be harshly fined.”

The church’s request will go next to the city Board of Standards and Appeals for final approval.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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