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Church eyeing lot on Northern Blvd.

By Kelsey Durham

A church that sits across the street from a vacant lot at the corner of Northern Boulevard and 196th Street in Auburndale has started exploring the possibility of purchasing the empty property.

The Rev. Paul Palesty, of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, said the church is interested in buying the four-block-wide stretch of land that has been the source of confusion and speculation by many neighborhood residents while it has sat empty and undeveloped for several years. He said the church, at 196-10 Northern Blvd., has considered purchasing the lot and turning it into some kind of community facility, possibly a parking lot, that would serve to benefit the entire area.

“A parking lot would be great, and we would be putting up a nice facility to help out the whole community,” he said. “There’s a big parking problem here, especially when school lets out, and that would be a great help.”

Chris Petallides, a member of Community Board 11 in Little Neck and a parishioner at St. Nicholas, said Palesty reached out to him and asked him to research what it would cost to purchase the lot and what steps would be required.

Petallides, an architect, said he called a man named Leo whose phone number was shown on a banner hanging on the construction fence at the property and was told that the owner is not interested in selling.

“He claimed to be a broker and told me that it’s not for sale, that it’s for lease only,” Petallides said.

He also said the man told him that the owner is looking to lease the property for a price of around $600,000 per year, a figure that both he and Palesty said is too high to consider.

“That’s ludicrous,” Petallides said. “A lease will not happen with the church, especially at that cost.”

A call made to the broker named Leo earlier this week confirmed that the owner was not looking to sell the property, but no lease price was named.

Palesty said the church is not interested in leasing the lot but would certainly be open to buying it if it were an option. Even if the church was not able to acquire the property, he said he is still curious to know what could occupy the space in the future.

“Because it’s across the street, we would always be open to the possibility of acquiring it,” he said. “But we are definitely interested in knowing what the property will be used for because it would have a direct influence on the church.”

Palesty said the church will continue to look into buying the property in hopes that the space becomes available in the future. For now, he said, all anyone can do is wait and see what happens.

“It’s a big piece of property and it can’t stay like that forever,” Petallides said. “It’s an eyesore and it’s not good for the community.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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