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Flushing temple to repair facility damaged by truck

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A Flushing Hindu temple has gotten the city's OK to begin repairing the damage left by a dump truck that crashed into its wall late last year.

The Shiv Shakti Peeth Temple has been evacuated ever since a truck slammed into its front wall on Nov. 18. The accident has forced members of the temple to seek other places of worship.

On Monday, the city Buildings Department issued a permit to the temple to replace the damaged support column and repair its front wall, said spokeswoman Ilyse Fink.

Swami Puri, the spiritual leader of the Shiv Shakti Peeth, hopes the permit will allow his congregation to repair the damage in about a month's time.

The permit marks the beginning of the end of the temple's three-month ordeal.

In the early morning of Nov. 18, a speeding garbage truck skidded off the wet road, across the sidewalk and into the front wall of the temple at 43-45 Main St., Puri said.

"It was just like an earthquake," said Puri, who slept on the second floor of the temple before the accident.

After inspecting the damage the following day, city officials ordered the temple vacated.

"The order is being issued because there is imminent danger to the safety and life of the occupants," reads the Buildings Department order posted on the wooden fence surrounding the temple.

The fence itself serves to hide the destroyed front wall of the temple. One metal beam is bent as if it were a mere straw, and shards from the temple's old glass facade still remain. Puri said when the temple reopens, it will have a brick face rather than glass.

Members of the temple were not upset with the truck driver, according to one volunteer who did not want to give her name. Instead, they were concerned about Puri's health and relieved to learn neither their spiritual leader nor the driver was seriously injured.

"That's a blessing," the volunteer said. "Material things you can recover, but human life is a first."

Instead of focusing on prayer, Puri has spent his recent days on the phone with the insurance company.

"This is very difficult," he said.

Puri estimated the repairs would cost at least $150,000.

Sitting across the street from the Queens Botanical Garden, Shiv Shakti Peeth is one of the smaller Hindu temples in Flushing. It opened on Main Street in 2001, after years in both Corona and Woodside.

Before the accident, the temple had about 50 worshipers on weekends, Puri said. Since then they have been attending services in individuals' apartments. Puri has been living with a friend on Union Street.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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