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Whitestone contractor’s church plans under fire to move draws protests

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Representatives of a Korean church in Flushing said last week they have every intention of improving Little Neck once construction on their new 249th Street facility is completed next year, but residents were skeptical at a meeting last week.

At a June 20 community meeting held at MS 158 in Bayside, 80 to 100 residents turned out to voice their fears about the new Eunhae Presbyterian Church building, which according to architectural plans will include a cellar, three floors and a 12-foot spire.

Allan Devine, a 35-year Little Neck resident, spoke for many at the meeting when he asked, “Have they taken any consideration for our quality of life? What consideration did they take into account concerning local residents?”

In an interview Friday, members of the church and the new facility’s architect said the project was planned in accordance with the city’s zoning code and they were surprised by the community opposition. They emphasized the new church would work on building relationships with its neighbors and would be accessible to the entire community, not just Korean residents.

Samuel Yang, an assistant pastor with the church, said “we would like to open the church for the community.”

Yang said when completed the church would offer after-school and senior programs, allow the public library and neighboring businesses to use church parking when available and is considering offering scholarships at nearby PS 94.

On June 12 the city Buildings Department stopped the project because of objections raised by residents and Community Board 11, and gave the church 10 days to address the concerns.

Those living near the project say the planned building — adjacent to the Douglaston-Little Neck branch of the Queens Borough Public Library — would overburden the area with traffic and noise and make it less safe for pedestrians and kids. Concerns about where the church’s 400 parishioners would park and the high occupancy rate of 1,200 people were also common at the MS 158 meeting.

A spokesman for the Buildings Department said the project was already halted once in May because construction was too close to a neighboring property and had damaged a homeowner’s garage.

That homeowner, Roberta Schroder, said the contractor on the project approached her family several times as the work started, once to ask if the group could use her home’s electricity and another time seeking to temporarily take over her garage to use as an office.

Schroder, who has a 14-month-old son, also said workers regularly began loud construction earlier than they were supposed to and had blocked her driveway several times.

“They’ve been stepping on everyone,” she said. “I’m tired of being nice.”

The new church is being built on an oddly shaped lot that stretches from 249th Street to Marathon Parkway behind the library and a row of stores. Part of the lot also reaches to Northern Boulevard.

Eunhae Presbyterian Church plans to leave its current facility in Flushing at 33-37 Farrington St., a one-story building adjacent to a tiny parking lot. The building faces a row of residential homes but is located in a general commercial area, and church founder Hyun Kim said the site was also a house of worship before the Eunhae Presbyterian Church moved in 10 years ago.

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

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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