CEDAR GROVE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey church has proposed rebuilding, and some say expanding. But neighbors fighting it say “not on our street.”
Wednesday was a big day for teens practicing for New Year’s Eve services at St. Mark Coptic Church in Cedar Grove. Like most nights, members say it will be jam-packed with some having to stand instead of sit in the pews.
It’s the reason why they say they need to tear down their walls and make the building larger.
“All of the congregation doesn’t have a view of the altar, so during liturgy, it is difficult to participate,” church member Janet Yousef told CBS2’s Christine Sloan.
“We think this is a time to have a church, a small church, it’s not a cathedral,” Priest Father Moises Bogdady said.
Residents are fighting the proposal, saying traffic is already bad on their quiet cul-de-sac because of the church.
“Very crowded. It’s jammed, very difficult to get out and get in,” Cedar Grove resident Knam Kim said,
As Sloan reported, some residents believe an expansion will change the character of their affluent neighborhood. Many have hired an attorney to stop what they say is a massive project.
“They are building, in fact, a cathedral at the entrance to a very residential community,” attorney Anthony Fiorello said, who is representing the residents.
The church, with several buildings, is headquarters for Coptic Christians in North America. Many have fled persecution in Egypt. In recent years, their churches were burnt down.
The priest in Cedar Grove doesn’t understand why his neighbors are so angry.
“Can you imagine that people, they can’t worship God in the land of freedom?” he said.
Father Bogdady says they shrunk the dimensions of their plan and even added parking spaces.
“I don’t think the parking will be big enough to reduce the traffic here,” Kim said.
The next zoning board meeting is January 13, when the church will wrap up its case. Resident will then have an opportunity for their argument as to why the church should not rebuild.
Both sides say a final decision could be made in the next six months.
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