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Editorial: Protecting the community

The Little Neck Pines Civic Association and the Douglaston Civic Association have held meetings at St. Anastasia’s Church and the Zion Episcopal Church to promote a letter campaign aimed at changing the zoning law that allows some nonprofit organizations to build churches and other institutions in residential neighborhoods.

Under the existing zoning regulations, community facilities such as churches and hospitals can build as-of-right pretty much anywhere in the city. The Douglaston community is particularly upset about a three-story Korean church being built on property that borders commercial and residential areas.

Like other ethnic houses of worship, this church will draw from a broad area in Queens. And like many of the organizations in Queens that serve a largely immigrant community, its members will have little leverage at the polls.

That is precisely why we are concerned about any efforts that might arise to abolish the as-of-right provisions in the zoning law from the movement to regulate community facilities. Consider the telling remark from Bernard Haber, a Douglas Manor resident and the former chairman of Community Board 11. “We’re the community, and they should be a facility for us,” he told a meeting of Queens homeowners.

Haber is not an intolerant person. But when he says that a community facility “should be for us,” he is in effect creating an unwelcome “them.”

The world has changed since St. Anastasia and Zion Episcopal opened their doors. These churches were created to serve a local parish. The new ethnic churches and temples are less geographically based and more inclined to serve an immigrant community drawn from a much larger, less defined area. What chance will such institutions have without “as-of-right” protection? They are far more likely to be the unwelcome “them” than Mr. Haber’s “us.”

Despite this very real concern, we recognize that something needs to be done. With no direct connection to neighborhoods in which they build, the new institutions, especially the churches and other houses of worship, have often been inconsiderate and insensitive to their impact on the surrounding homeowners. A solution must be found that will meet the needs of both groups.

Perhaps the as-of-right rules can be replaced by some sort of mediation that would recognize the rights and needs of longtime homeowners and the borough's new immigrants.

Whatever the solution, we urge the City Council to move carefully on this very explosive issue, making certain that every voice is heard.

Editoroal: Overprotected

The officials who would have you live in a protective bubble never to be bothered again by an unwanted flier, phone call, knock on the door or piece of junk mail won an important battle last week. A judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a July 2001 Court of Appeals ruling which found cease-and-desist lists that would limit solicitations by real estate brokers to be unconstitutional.

Once again homeowners can add their names to a list that will prevent the brokers from trying to contact them. The legislation creating these lists was first introduced by State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) in 1989.

Said Padavan, “I’m happy once again homeowners will be protected from solicitation in their homes from often unscrupulous real estate brokers and agents.”

Unfortunately, senator, the people will also be protected from honest, real estate brokers who play an important role in the economy of Queens. And for what? How hard is that to take a piece of junk mail offering to buy or sell your home and put it in the trash? Do you really need or want this level of protection?

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