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College Pt. church awaits city’s OK to use reconstructed site

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Parishioners at the First Reformed Church of College Point were dealt a devastating blow last year when a fast-moving fire severely damaged their 135-year-old house of worship.

Now, after a grueling 15 months, they’re ready to get back to normal — all they need is for the city to let them.

The church has been waiting for two months for the city Department of Buildings to sign off on its reconstructed sanctuary and steeple after it was finished in July.

“We had planned on getting back in the sanctuary this Sunday but the city hasn’t approved us yet. So we’re still waiting,” said the Rev. Linda Burlew in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers last week. “It’s just been a very hard year.”

The 135-year-old wooden church suffered major damage in June 2008 when a fire ripped through its steeple, closing the main sanctuary.

The First Reformed Church of College Point congregation dates back to 1871. Regular worship services began soon after, and the church was dedicated Sept. 28, 1873. Some parishioners, like Karl Nagasawa, 43, can count four generations of his family as church members.

Despite the lengthy wait for city approval, Burlew said her congregation is remaining strong and not putting up a fuss. Though worship was offered elsewhere after the fire, services were held outdoors just days later in the church’s courtyard.

Regular church services have also been conducted in the building’s smaller chapel while the congregation waited for repairs to be completed.

Burlew said the experience has galvanized the church community and pulled them closer.

“It’s not necessarily anything we’d recommend to anyone else but good things have come out of this,” she said.

The church was able to pay for most of the losses through insurance and Burlew said the community, which was tight-knit to begin with, is even stronger than before.

“It could have been so much worse,” she said. “It’s been tough on everyone, but it’s actually been good. Everybody has really pitched in and even in this recent frustration we’re still keeping our heads up.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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