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Doug vacant lot should be converted to park: CB 11

The position pits the board against St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, which is next door to the lot on 234th Street at 39th Avenue, and has eyed the land to build a day-care center - a plan that has the support of state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).Neighbors and civic groups, citing a lack of open park space in the area, want the 60-by-150-foot lot turned into a park. Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has championed that proposal and called on the mayor to make it happen.Some residents and the civic group in the area, Doug Bay Manor Civic Association, have opposed the church from the start, arguing that its building is too large and worshipers coming from outside the neighborhood clog parking on the streets. Church leaders have said a day-care center would benefit the neighborhood and many commuters who park nearby to take the Long Island Rail Road.After residents brought the request for the park to Community Board 11, the full board voted nearly unanimously Monday in favor of it. But whether that vote will have any sway on what actually happens is far from clear."It was noted that the Parks Department to this day has not expressed interest in acquiring the property," said Joseph Hellman, co-chairman of the board's parks committee.The city seized the land from private owners in 1969 when it intended to extend 39th Avenue through to Douglaston Parkway on the other side of the block. Community opposition killed the planned road, and the property has languished in the possession of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development since. Neighbors say it should be transferred to the Parks Department because there is no other city park in the area. The nearby school, PS 98, has a playground attached, but it is solely the property of the Department of Education, and it is not open most of the time. Padavan has pressed to keep the playground open so the community can use it as a park. If the city decided to sell the land to St. Sarkis for development, the deal would have to go through an extensive land use review that includes input from the community board, borough president and City Council.Several residents, including one-time Padavan political opponent Ann Jawin, president of the Doug Bay Manor Civic, spoke in favor of the park proposal at the meeting. Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.

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