(Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been granted permission to start building a large church in the New York City borough of Queens, despite heavy opposition from city officials.
The Board of Standards and Appeals in Flushing, Queens gave the Mormons the go ahead earlier this week, and the church will now be able to erect a large two-story house of worship with 55 underground parking spaces and a nine-story steeple – despite the facility being twice the size of the limit placed on buildings in the residential area.
"I am somewhere between outraged and disappointed," expressed Tyler Cassell, a member of local Community Board 7 and president of the North Flushing Civic Association.
"These laws were written to protect the character of our neighborhoods; now they are meaningless," he added, asking why the Mormon Church has been given such an exemption.
"That's why I call it public enemy number 1," expressed state Tony Avella (D-Bayside) about the BSA. "The decision undermines everything we've done to downzone."
Avella has been fighting hard on the side of local residents and the surrounding neighborhoods opposed to such an over-sized place of worship being built on their grounds, but the Mormon Church has understandably been delighted with the decision.
"The church applauds the BSA's ruling. It affirms that the permit application and plans to build are within the law," expressed Mormon spokesman Ahmad Corbitt.
"Nevertheless, we look forward to continued dialogue with our neighbors on ways to fit the coming meetinghouse comfortably into the neighborhood without sacrificing the church's well-established worship needs. Members of the community have been open-minded and levelheaded in ongoing discussions in this regard," he added.
Community Board 7 and Borough President Helen Marshall have also been against the new building, explaining that such a large church would be "out of character and scale" with the surrounding neighborhoods in Flushing.
"Based on case law, the BSA may have had basis for their unanimous vote of approval, but based on the constant misrepresentations made by the LDS Church, I don't believe there ever was a credible case," expressed Chuck Apelian, chairman of Community Board 7's Land Use Committee.
Avella is even considering filing an Article 78 against the BSA, which can be made against decisions made by a city or state agency in the New York courts. The lawsuit could push pack the date of when construction on the Mormon building can begin – but the filing fee alone is $20,000, The Queens Chronicle reported.
The Mormon Church will be allowed 9,000 square feet for classrooms, 16 Bible study rooms, and the congregation size may exceed the 350 limit size, which is already above and beyond the average amount of worshipers per church in the neighborhood.