Editorial: No prayer zones

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A story that ran last week in some of the TimesLedger papers adds new dimension to the controversy surrounding the opening of new churches in Queens. Politicians and civic leaders want to change existing zoning laws that allow nonprofit organizations to build community facilities as-of-right in residential neighborhoods.

In particular, the problem is the small ethnic churches that are springing up in residential communities in all parts of Queens. The civic leaders say they have nothing against these churches, but they would prefer to see them built on lots in nonresidential parts of the borough. In this case, the churches are not illegal — not yet.

But in College Point this controversy has taken a strange twist. Residents are up in arms over a church that is operating in the underutilized corporate park. One man complained that when he returns from his church on Sunday he can’t find a parking place because people attending the Abundant Life Church are parking on his street and walking to their church.

He concedes that people playing baseball in nearby Golden Park also park on his street. It is not clear how he can tell from a parked car who came to play and who came to pray. Although the church may be guilty of minor violations, the Buildings Department said they do not justify closing the church down.

The gentleman claims he has collected 200 signatures opposing the church, which is not in a residential area. That is as believable as it is sad. And so it has come to this: In Bayside, Douglaston and Whitestone, people want the churches to stop building in residential areas. In College Point they want to get rid of a church in an industrial park.

Not surprisingly the local politicians are more than happy to champion the cause of those who resent the building of new churches. We trust that it has not escaped their attention that the congregations of the new churches are often immigrants who cannot vote while the homeowners are registered voters.

Where the law allows the building of churches as-of-right, they want the law changed. And where the churches may be in technical violation of the law, they want the letter of the law strictly enforced.

Editorial: A class act

We will miss Bobby Valentine. The Mets manager was fired last week the day after one of the worst seasons in its history came to a close.

Bobby is a man who loves baseball and loves to win. We remember the man who got kicked off the field only to re-enter the dugout in a silly disguise. And we remember the man who took the Mets to the Subway Series. What a thrill for all New York!

When he wasn’t managing, it seemed that Bobby was always helping to raise money for some worthy cause. In his years at Flushing, Bobby gave generously of his time, especially in the months following the collapse of the World Trade Center. During the past six years, Valentine has served as co-emcee with Donna Hanover of an annual event called Hometown Heroes, which honors local youth for significant achievements. The reception is sponsored every year by the Mets, the TimesLedger newspapers and St. Mary’s Hospital.

And when he got the heave-ho, he left graciously. He thanked the Mets organization for the opportunity and he said he would always wish the team well.

Now it is our turn to thank Bobby for all that he did on and off the field. We will miss Bobby V.

Updated 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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