Church with controversial history seeks to expand and add 100 parking spots in Woodside

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A one-story Pentecostal church in Woodside has filed plans to triple in size and add 100 parking spots.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, located at 68-03 Roosevelt Ave., is seeking a variance to build a new, 79-foot, five-story church with parking. The building is currently 45 feet and if the variance is granted, it will be demolished to make way for the new structure.


The church first filed applications for expansion in July 2015, according to plans filed with the Department of Buildings.

According to Jessica Rubenstein — assistant for Eric Palatnik, the land-use lawyer representing the church — a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals is needed to allow the congregation to build a larger structure. The new building would occupy about 67,000 square feet.

Denise Keehan-Smith, chairperson of Community Board 2 (CB 2), said there will be a public hearing on Sept. 27 to discuss the variance. Keehan-Smith, a Woodside resident, said she is concerned about the proposed size.

“It will overshadow the other houses within the backyard area,” she said at a recent CB 2 meeting. “As someone from Woodside who doesn’t live too far from there, I think that we have to question them and I’m a little concerned just about the size. I think it’s going to be really massive.”

According to Rubenstein, the “rapidly growing congregation” needs to “create a larger building that will help them meet their programmatic needs.”

The new building will allow for offices, classrooms, worship space, rectories, conference rooms and more. The church also wants to accommodate visiting clergy from their other locations. Three parking decks would accommodate 100 cars.

“Instead of uprooting from this location, they love the location and they feel that they’ve really become a religious and spiritual anchor in the community,” Rubenstein said. “So instead of moving they’d like to redevelop the building.”

About 900 people attend the church’s services, Rubenstein said. A spokesperson for the church was not available to confirm this at press time.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has branches all around the world and its headquarters are in São Paulo, Brazil. It has frequently made headlines for participating in illegal activities such as money laundering; in 2010, the church’s New York treasurer – who works for the Woodside and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn locations – was arrested on fraud charges.

According to the New York Post, Regina DeSilva was arrested for repeatedly lying to the Attorney Generals’ office and Manhattan judges when she secured 11 mortgage loans worth $22 million. Pastors were also heard telling congregants that in order to be blessed, they had to donate big bucks to the church.

“Unless you give, you cannot be blessed,” a pastor told his Woodside congregants in 2000.

The church has been criticized for preaching prosperity gospel, which is the belief that donating to the church can increase one’s financial wealth.

“Tell yourself this: I’m going to make myself rich,” a WNYC reporter heard a pastor in Woodside say. “I won’t be poor; I reject being poor. Is it a sin for me to say, ‘God, I want to have a lot’?”

The Universal Church has more than 6,000 locations worldwide and the founder Edir Macedo, who also owns the second-largest broadcast network in Brazil, is worth $1 billion, according to Forbes.

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