MERRICK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was uproar in a Long Island neighborhood on Monday.
A longstanding Greek Orthodox church wants to build a big new cultural center, but neighbors say it will bring chaos to their quiet streets.
Every time Bill Cody passes the signs in front of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, he gets fired up about the church’s recently announced request to build a large new cultural center right across the street.
“They need 146 more parking spaces to be here on this street. It’s just not going to fit,” he said.
Down the block, neighbor Robert Bowen fears the noise and dust of construction. He objects to the 25,000- sqft center that would be built by demolishing all of the neighboring church built homes.
“They want to put a gymnasium in the basement, and then a 600- sqft higher ceiling for the kitchen, and eventually down the road it’s going to be a catering halls,” Bowen said.
Father Nikiforos Fakinos proudly pointed out that St. Demotrious has been a center for Greek Orthodox Christians. The church has been a mainstay in Merrick since 1980, it has 400 members and a growing youth group, but its sports teams have no gym of their own.
“Right now, we’re having to go into the public schools to play and sometimes they cancel on us and we don’t have the proper facility to bring everybody together,” Coach Nikos Puolikdis said.
Neighbor Jack McManus has lived on the block for 23 years. He said the big fence needed for construction will block drivers’ view.
“You got a six-foot fence on the corners, cars coming in both directions, you can’t see what’s coming,” he said.
Father Fakinos said construction will be handled safely, and they’re doing what other religious organizations routinely do — expand.
“We owe this to our youth, to give them a place to practice their faith, and to congregate,” Father Fakinos said.
The town zoning board will hear both sides at a public hearing on June 1.
If approved, the church would begin construction immediately.