The possible arrival of a new Korean church in Carle Place has residents concerned about congestion and the building’s potential impact on the village.
Representatives from Hanullim Presbyterian, a church based in Bayside, Queens, presented plans and fielded questions from the community at a Wednesday night civic association meeting. The church is awaiting the Town of North Hempstead’s approval to move forward with plans to use the vacant Albraco metals building on Westbury Avenue.
Church officials purchased the property for nearly $2 million in December 2015. The site has not been maintained for several years and is a blight to the community, said the church’s attorney, Andrea Tsoukalas, of Uniondale-based Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwarz, Mineo & Terran.
“This could have been an office building, a restaurant,” Tsoukalas said. “A church is a much less intense use. . . . They [Hanullim] want to be good neighbors.” She said she hoped the town’s zoning appeals board would make a decision about the application at its next meeting in March.
The applicant is seeking variances for parking and the “required landscape” to turn the former warehouse into a church. The building’s 12,981 square footage would not be extended, Tsoukalas said.
Residents had mixed opinions about the application, with some questioning why the church would choose to move to the village. Some also asked about the practices of a Korean church, such as whether the church has weddings.
Hanullim church deacon Mike Kim said an increasing number of the church’s congregation of roughly 150 people are moving to Long Island, and that the area was underserved.
“It’s a natural migration from Queens to Nassau,” Tsoukalas said.
Nassau County has one of the fastest-growing Korean-American communities in the tristate area. From 2000 to 2010, the Korean population rose by 48 percent, according to a 2012 report conducted by Queens College. More than 8 percent of Nassau’s population of 1.4 million residents is Korean, according to the 2015 American Community Survey.
Residents also expressed concerns about congestion on Westbury Avenue and whether the church’s arrival and future growth would exacerbate traffic and parking woes.
“It’s just not the right place to put a church, that’s it,” village resident Vincent Silvester said.
Others applauded the project, noting the building’s 30 years of vacancy and dilapidated appearance.
“As far as I’m concerned, I like churches,” Gloria Monitto of Westbury said in the hearing. “With everything that’s going on with traffic, we need to keep praying.”
Carle Place resident John Kingston called the project a “godsend” that the village had long been waiting for. Past plans for developing the Albraco building had never come to fruition, due to delays in addressing mercury contamination at the site. The previous owner, JGN Construction Corp., had proposed constructing a two-story, mixed-use development with retail and restaurants before deciding to sell the property.
The church will soon submit a site plan to the town board, Tsoukalas said.