2004-05-28 / Community

Church Event Angers Community Residents

By Brendan Brosh

Church Event Angers Community Residents

By Brendan Brosh

A religious event held last Saturday on Beach 90 and Beach 92 Street has attracted a lot of criticism from local residents and business owners.

According to Community Board 14 District Manager, Jonathan Gaska, the Celestial Church, at 214 Beach 90 Street, was allowed to have an outdoor religious ceremony on Saturday, May 22, provided that, "All activity including music stop at 9:00 p.m. and they provide ‘porta potty’ type bathrooms for the event."

Local residents, however, claim that the blaring music went on until past midnight. "There was music, chanting and prayer on the block until 11:30 p.m.," said one Beach 92 Street resident who asked to remain nameless. "There were some church members who remained in the street until I went to bed at 2 a.m."

After the initial ceremony on Beach 90 Street finished at 9 p.m., the congregants moved to the 300’s block of Beach 92 Street. Residents claim that churchgoers blocked their driveways, double-parked, stood in the middle of the street, and denied access to vehicles.

The customary 60-day period for acquiring a permit for such an event was waived, however according to Gaska, because of a recent fire to the Celestial Church. As a result, the decision to allow the event was made in consultation with Community Board 14, the Rockaway Beach Civic Association and the 100th Precinct.

There are some in community who believe more consultation with the community was necessary before the event was allowed to take place.

When the matter was raised at the 100 Precinct Community Council meeting on Wednesday night, Captain Paul Piekarski, who recently returned from vacation, was unaware of the incident. Piekarski and the community affairs officers, however, stayed with the concerned community residents after the meeting.

The residents and business owners are still not happy with the situation.

"I had to make a delivery to the Knights of Columbus for a christening, with more than 200 balloons," said Anne Hanovic, whose business, Balloonatics, is located around the corner from the church. "I was not allowed up Beach 90 Street. The auxiliary cop told me I that can’t go through."

Hanovic often walks instead of driving to the Knights of Columbus because of the traffic pattern under the elevated tracks of the "A" train. "I was completely refused access. No signs were put up and they didn’t inform us beforehand."

Diane Annese, who lives directly behind the church, says that this is not an isolated incident and music can sometimes continue on until 3 a.m. "It has been going on for years. I have been disturbed, and inconvenienced by their endless music, and cannot open my windows when they have their meetings. If I’ve called the cops once, I’ve called twenty-five times," said Annese.

As for the community approving the event, Annese said, "this immediate community would not have agreed to this event."

"They play their music on loud speakers and amplifiers," said local resident Pam Joseph. "Half of the group is chanting outside. You are in church with them – whether you want to be or not."

Jose Rivas, who also lives behind the church, but was not home during the event on Saturday, said, "They are up too late. I work early, and I have a hard time getting to sleep when they are playing music. Everyone is entitled to their churches, but not at 2 or 3 in the morning."

Nancy Boyle, who leaves nearby has had to call the cops in the past due to the music. "Wednesday nights are their late night," said Boyle. "I can’t open my windows and have to turn my T.V. all the way up."

While the community remains in an uproar, Gaska says Community Board 14 will not approve any future events by the Celestial Church if the allegations are substantiated.

"They were planning this event for months and it was supposed to be inside," said Gaska. "Because of the fire we accommodated them - if they went over the conditions, we’re not going to accommodate them in the future."

Calls made to the Celestial Church were not returned.

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