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City halts work on Flushing church’s new building

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The city Buildings Department put the brakes this week on a Flushing Korean church’s plans to build a three-story house of worship with a 12-foot-high spire on a tiny, odd-shaped lot just off Northern Boulevard in Little Neck.

In a letter to Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber dated June 12, Queens Buildings Commissioner Magdi Mossad said the plans for construction at 43-37 249th St. had been audited by the agency.

“A number of objections are raised,” Mossad wrote in the letter. “The work shall be stopped until at least all major objections are complied with.”

But an assistant pastor with the Eunhae Presbyterian Church in Flushing said the new location would benefit the Little Neck community with programs and that the group would work on an arrangement to allow other businesses to use the church parking lot when it was available.

Community Board 11 District Manager Anne Marie Boranian, who said the Buildings Department letter arrived in Monday’s mail, said residents had circulated a petition with more than 150 signatures earlier this month demanding a Buildings Department review of the proposed construction.

In letters to the Buildings Department, Haber questioned the height of the proposed building with its spire — a total of 62.5 feet — saying it was the equivalent of a seven-story building. Haber also sought information on how the church would provide the required amount of parking for the project.

According to Eugene Chi, a contractor with the Whitestone-based Kang Suk Construction, the new house of worship was to be a 20,000-square-foot, three-floor facility meant to serve as the new site of the Eunhae Presbyterian Church, which is planning to leave Flushing. Chi said in a telephone interview Monday morning construction was expected to take a year.

Eunhae Presbyterian Church has been at 33-37 Farrington St. in Flushing for 10 years, said Chi, who described himself as a church member and said Kang Suk Construction was owned by the church.

Community Board 11, which includes Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Auburndale and Hollis Hills, sent several letters to the Buildings Department questioning construction plans for the site.

According to permit applications filed by Chi’s construction company with the Buildings Department, the church was to include 32 parking spaces, a kitchen, bathrooms, meeting rooms, offices and a first-floor sanctuary with a maximum occupancy of 564 people.

Residents of 240th, 248th and 249th streets who signed a June 7 petition listed the availability of parking and traffic and safety concerns among their trepidations about the project.

In letters to the Buildings Department dated May 26 and June 6, Haber said the large size of the proposed spire would cast a considerable shadow on neighboring homes.

A spokeswoman for the Buildings Department said Kang Suk Construction has 10 days to respond to the agency and try to solve the objections surrounding the project.

“We took a look at these plans and we found them deficient,” spokeswoman Ilyse Fink said. “They need to come in and make a good faith effort because we saw issues that need to be addressed.”

Fink said if the company did not respond to the Buildings Department in the required amount of time, the agency’s approval of the plans could be revoked.

Samuel Yang, an assistant pastor at the church, said he was not aware of community’s objections to the construction or the Buildings Department review.

“We’re planning to open up our church to the community,” he said.

Yang said the church would offer after-school and senior citizens programs, and businesses and the adjacent public library could use the parking lots when the congregation was not worshiping. Yang said the church would be in use for services mostly on Wednesdays and Sundays.

“Before we moved into our Flushing church the area was dangerous,” he said. “The area became much safer after we moved in. It will be better for the community once the church is built.”

A community meeting was scheduled to be held Wednesday night at MS 158 in Bayside for residents to discuss the project.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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