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Community Board 2 opposes church’s bid for zoning variance

Church Plan (building on adjacent site)

Feb. 2, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan

Community Board 2 delivered a huge blow to the proposed mega church project in Woodside last night, voting unanimously to oppose the rezoning application requested by the church.

The Universal Church, which has been located at 63-08 Roosevelt Avenue for more than 20 years, has been seeking a Board of Standards and Appeals variance to allow it to build a new six-story, nearly 70,000 square foot building since last summer.

The proposed building would be erected on the site next to the existing church. The existing church would be demolished.

The current zoning of the proposed site does not permit buildings to be more than 45 feet tall and requires them to be at least 30 feet from the property line. The variance requested would alter those requirements, allowing the church to build a 79 feet tall structure and permit it to be within 10 feet from the property line at the rear of the site.

After hearing from several elected officials and hours of passionate testimony both in favor and against the church, Community Board 2 voted

Existing church structure/site

unanimously to oppose the church’s proposal.

Land Use chair Lisa Deller explained before the vote that under the current zoning codes, the church could easily build a new structure as-of-right with as much, or more, square footage on the existing church site.

Deller laid out the specific criteria that the church was required to meet for the variance to be granted by the BSA.

The BSA Rules require that the project will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood, the hardship that the site created was not caused or created by the applicant, and that the proposal would be for the minimum necessary to afford relief.

While laying out the rules, Deller argued that the proposed structure goes against the character of the neighborhood and does not meet the final criteria of affording minimum necessary relief because the church could easily build as-of-right.

“This is not a referendum on religion, or on this church, or whether or not it does good works or great works, we accept and are thankful that they do, and all of us individually can support all of that,” said board member Pat O’Brian. “The problem that arises, though, is that the Land Use committee does not support the design and how they want to build what they’re building.”

The vote came on the heels of several hours of heated testimony in a packed room from both those opposing the church and those in favor of building.

The church had bused in congregants from all over the city and Long Island to show their support, filling the room with people holding signs in support of the church.

A smaller, but equally vocal, Filipino contingent came to oppose the project, worried that it would threaten the area, which is known as Little Manila.

Those against the church argued that it would bring in gentrification and threaten small business owners, as well as create more traffic and construction noise.

Several elected officials also spoke out against the project. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he would be writing a letter to the BSA opposing the project, though explained that it was largely because he did not approve of the BSA process and would oppose most proposals going through the process, which can easily disregard community input.

Recently elected Assemblyman Brian Barnwell also spoke against the project, explaining that he was worried that the proposal did not take in to consideration much of the community input.

Those in favor of the construction shared stories of how the church helped them overcome addiction or bad circumstances earlier in life, and described it as a “family.” Several compared services in the current church building to trying to squeeze a large family in a one-bedroom apartment, explaining that they needed more space.

The church also explained that it would offer community programming and would open up its parking spaces to the public during off-peak church hours.

O’Brian ultimately explained that much of the testimony was emotional, and was not applicable to the decision the board had to make about whether the zoning variance made sense.

The 31 members of the board present at the meeting voted unanimously to oppose the proposal, though their decision is merely advisory.

The BSA will review the application in the coming months, taking in to account the Community Board’s opposition, as well as letters from elected officials, and will make a final decision as to whether or not to grant the zoning variance.

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Let the Philippino people buy the building and make a community center or something there then they have a right to say what should go here. Invest in the neighborhood–, rather your little manila, or just shut up. Nobody force you to move here, you could have located yourselves elsewhere or stayed in the Philippines. To many people come here and then just send the money back home, you want your little enclave, well then invest in it

Not filipino

What has this church invested into the surrounding neighborhood over the last 20 years? NOTHING. it’s an eyesore as well , paved over private homes to make an uneven blacktop parking lot. Take your brainwashed zombies elsewhere.

Harry the Hat is an idiot.

Jimmy Van Bramer opposes this church, not because it would affect the community immediately around it, but because it does not support his liberal gay pushing agenda and his false #QueensValues. Maybe if he left Sunnyside gardens more often and headed up to that section of Queens, he would realize that hundreds of days laborers suffer within a few hundred feet of this “church”.

Harry the Hat

Must have not been a Catholic Church because if it was it would have been approved and the same ones cheering now would be very upset if the Catholic Church had been denied. Me I think all Religion is BS! we really need to tax all houses of worship.

More Scorpion bar

They should rebuild the exsisting scorpion bar 7 stories high and the length of the block ,on. roosevelt between 69st and 70th st. Fill it with those luscious south american scantily dressed beauties and have it on all 7 floors. Now thats an idea

God Fearing Man

Jvb is curbing religious freedom. These are not #QueensValues
How bout a protest march…


Thank you CB2. This church wanted to take over the neighborhood not become a part of it. People or institutions intending to overwhelm everyone around them are invaders, not neighbors.


The decision to bus in people from outside the neighborhood to create the appearance of support really tells you all you need to know: these people couldn’t care less about the community that they literally want to rip up from the ground.

Also tells you they don’t know a thing about the community either. This was a meeting about land use – not whether or not the people running the church do nice things. The board isn’t going to ignore the actual point of the meeting just because someone tells a good story.

Bowery Boy

Religion is considered true, by the common people, false by the wise, and “Useful” by the “Rulers”.
Seneca the Younger.


Glad to hear the Community Board voted unanimously to oppose the variance and keep the integrity of the community. Building 80 ft high to house foreign pastors and guest$? Their leadership thought busing in members of their congregation to testify with church propaganda would sway a decision about a variance? Makes you wonder about them. This is a gated community within a community. They were also stubborn enough not to altar their design at any point during negotiations. It’s obvious they do not care about their neighbors.


Glad to hear the community board made the correct decision. The church tried to sway opinion with propaganda and sob stories, busing in congregants which was irrelevant to the subject at hand. They do not care about their surrounding neighbors, only their gated community. Their leadership is stubborn and selfish. They would not change their design or altar it in anyway to appease the neighborhood. “Let’s build 80 feet high so we can house forgein pastors and guests”… please take the circus elsewhere.


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