Thursday, October 7, 2010
Church group looks to demap street
From the Daily News:
A SOMETIMES controversial spiritual group has asked the city to sell them a long-defunct Jamaica Hills street, which is already being used as a meditation garden.
The Sri Chinmoy Centre Church will present a proposal to de-map Glenn Ave. to Community Board 8 tonight. Board members and local residents will be given the opportunity to weigh in on plans for the unpaved parcel.
"That whole area is sacred to us," said Ashrita Furman, 56, a church member and Guinness World Record holder. "That's where our teacher meditated. We really want to preserve it just as a peaceful green space."
The group originally tried to lease the property when it moved to Jamaica Hills about 30 years ago, Furman said. Back then, the street with abandoned trolley tracks was a wasteland of junk cars, garbage and drug abusers, he and local officials said.
But the lease deal fell through and the church purchased some adjoining property, he said. Members took it upon themselves to clean up Glenn Ave. and put a fence around it.
But the group became concerned when developers began looking at the property, Furman said. So, several years ago, the church approached the city about de-mapping the street, having it appraised and selling it to the church at fair market price.
"For the most part, we're all in support of this," said Deborah Ayala, president of the Jamaica Hills Community Association. The church is "well-known in the neighborhood and well-liked."
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), a former member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre Church, also supports the sale.
"They've been a very responsible steward of this property for the last 30 years," Gennaro said. "It will ensure that the property never again falls into disrepair."
After the community board votes on the proposal, it must go before the City Planning Commission for review, city officials said. It then may go before the City Council.
The church has come under fire in the past as former members have come forward and labeled the group a cult.