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Civic fears St. Sarkis parking lot

The Doug-Bay Manor Civic Association met last Thursday evening to discuss a problem it thought had been set to rest years ago.

At issue is a plot of land adjacent to St. Sarkis Church that most members of the civic want turned into a public park or at the very least a nice home in character with the close-knit Douglaston neighborhood it is a part of.

For several years, the civic and elected officials were successful in preventing the city from selling the land to the church, which wants to make it into a parking lot. Now, a month after the arrival of a new councilman — Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who replaced the seat’s longtime holder, Democrat Tony Avella — one of their worst fears has been returned.

“All of a sudden it reared its ugly head because there’s a new guy on the block,” said Thomas Pinto, president of the civic association.

Halloran so far has not committed to any decision as to what the land should be used for, but at the meeting he presented a compromise plan and laid out to the civic’s members the realties of the situation and how they could work to block the plan.

“In theory they can do whatever they want and there’s very little we can do,” he said. “One of the things we’re going to have to do is propose a Plan A and a Plan B. I understand you don’t want a parking lot, but that may not matter to certain people. They’re not going to spend the money to build a park there. ... We need to keep your options open for as long as possible.”

Avella, who also attended the meeting, opposes the parking lot and made suggestions about what the group should do in order to prevent one from being built.

“Once the [Bloomberg] administratio certifies it, they’re going to try to ram it through. You’ve got to kill it before it gets to that point,” he cautioned.

Several members of the civic were concerned that if the church acquires the land, it will build a day-care facility or other building there, which they are even more opposed to than the construction of a parking lot.

Halloran’s compromise plan would make allowances to prevent that from happening. He proposed that the church install a parking lot with some green space, that there be a binding covenant that would bar the land from being changed into a building and that there should be financial penalties, payable to the civic or Community Board 11, so the community can sue the church if it decides to construct a building on the land.

Neither the city, church nor the civic has agreed to that compromise and the civic’s chairwoman, Ann Jawin, repeatedly insisted the land should be used for a park since the community has no parkland other than a playground that is closed on weekends.

“We are one of the few areas that has nothing,” she said. “We need green space. We have seniors in this community and we have little children, and they have nowhere to walk. We’re entitled to this green space.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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