Community members and church leaders clashed at a Community Board 2 public hearing Tuesday about altering zoning regulations to make way for a mega church in Woodside.
The Universal Church, located at 68-03 Roosevelt Avenue, held the public hearing in conjunction with Community Board 2 to allow residents to provide feedback on its proposed expansion, which would nearly double its height and triple its square footage.
The majority of the approximately 50 people in attendance spoke strongly against the project.
Community members expressed concerns with the size, scope, and scale of the project, as well as concerns over how it could affect traffic and transportation issues, could bring in gentrification and impact small businesses in the neighborhood, and could have negative consequences for those residing nearby.
Those in attendance also noted the Universal Church’s reputation for preaching a “prosperity gospel,” which encourages parishioners to give money to the church, combining tactics from religious sermons with self-help seminars.
The proposed church would be the East Coast headquarters for the Universal Church, an international network of churches based in Brazil with over 6,000 locations worldwide, with a dozen in New York City alone.
The zoning on the church property currently allows it to build up to 45 feet tall, and it is required to have 30 feet between its building and the property line. The requested variances would waive those requirements, allowing the church to build up to 79 feet tall and out to 10 feet from the property line.
Though not addressed at the meeting, information provided by the church indicates that if the zoning variances are denied, the church will still build a new structure that complies with current zoning laws.