A construction site that was once the location of a century-old church in Glendale has become the center of a community controversy.
Complaints about the construction range from damage done to an adjacent property to work done without permits. Rumors that have not been confirmed suggest that human bones have been found at the site.
Although the Department of Buildings ordered work to be stopped at 71-05 Cooper Avenue on February 13th, developers ignored the order and continued construction. The DOB’s directive did not have to do with finding human remains.
“We stopped the work because they did not have the approved permits,” said Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for the DOB. “We went back again because they were working contrary to the stop-work order.”
The developer of the site was fined $2,500, which has not yet been paid.
Plans for the site call for six three-family homes. But community leaders are worried that separate entrances to the cellar are being built, an indication that illegal apartments are being constructed. It also appears that basement plumbing is being installed.
Whether there will be 18 apartments or 24, community members are concerned about the impact of so many people living in a space that was once occupied only by the church, trees, grass and flowers.
The increase of cars in the area without sufficient parking spots is troubling residents. According to Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr., the documents indicate there will be 10 spaces, even though there should be one for each of the 18 apartments. “The community board has made a number of complaints,” he said. “The documents are very sloppy.”
In addition to problems with the plans, the owner of the adjacent property on Cooper Avenue has made a number of complaints. Besides a fence that was erected without permission, three holes were dug on his land as well. Complaints have also been made about the construction fence at the site being left open.
The Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was demolished last August, after community leaders unsuccessfully tried to designate the building as an official New York City landmark. At the time, State Senator Serphin Maltese offered to find capital funds to save the building but he was not able to successfully negotiate with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.
According to Robert Fardella, chancellor of the diocese, the property was sold because there were not enough parishioners to keep it open. When the church was closed there were only 11 parishioners left.
Last May the diocese sold the building to Louis Buoninfante, the owner of Westchester Square Pawnbrokers and Jewelers in the Bronx. Neither Buoninfante nor New Construction, which is building the condominiums, returned calls seeking comment.
Although the church sold the property for $1,025,000, it is likely that a farmer donated the land to the diocese, which was common in the 1800s.
Fardella said he has no memory of there being a cemetery on the property’s deed, but community members say it is possible that an empty plot on the land was used as a grave site by the farmer. As a child in the 1940s, Arcuri remembers being told not to play on the property because of a burial ground there.
The Church of the Annunciation was actually two separate buildings, one built in 1895, the other built in the 1920s. Both were designed identically, to resemble old English churches. According to Ridgewood Historian George Miller, the buildings were not architecturally unique, but they were community landmarks.
When the church closed in 2002, several community groups were evicted, including Glenridge Senior Center. Glenridge operates a site in Ridgewood, but the commute is too difficult for a number of elderly people who used to eat lunch and participate in other activities at the church. Many of those seniors no longer have a place to socialize.