A rendering of a Jehovah's Witness assembly hall planned in...

A rendering of a Jehovah's Witness assembly hall planned in Woodbury. Credit: Robert Hendriks

Jehovah’s Witnesses are looking to build their first Long Island assembly hall, in Woodbury, at the site of the former Geico offices.

The Wallkill, New York organization is planning to build a 53,700 square-foot assembly hall, including a 2,100-seat auditorium, on a 20-acre property at 750 Woodbury Rd., according to a site plan submitted to the Town of Oyster Bay.

Smaller congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses meet weekly for prayer service at 21 Kingdom Halls in Nassau and Suffolk counties, along with 24 Kingdom Halls in Queens.

The new assembly hall, which officials hope to complete by summer 2025, will serve more than 8,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses on Long Island, said the organization’s spokesman, Robert Hendriks, who grew up in Central Islip.

The Long Island Assembly Hall will serve residents who currently have to drive two to three times per year for assemblies at a 100-year-old converted theater in Sunnyside, Queens.

The new assembly hall is planned to be used 75 days a year, primarily on 33 weekends, and 13 Fridays for summer conferences.

“This is such a refreshing change for the area and to have a state-of-the-art assembly hall that really dignifies the teaching and the fellowship that goes on inside,” Hendriks said. “Our congregants for so many years have braved that traffic on a Friday night and a Saturday evening.”

The project is part of a $50 million investment, including the organization’s purchase of the property for $27 million from Geico in December 2022, Hendriks said.

The site plan was submitted to the Oyster Bay Planning Advisory Board, but town officials said a hearing date has not been set because the plan needs to be finished first. The plan also includes more than 700 parking spaces.

The new assembly hall is expected to host about 10 congregations at a time on weekends. It will also host full-day religious lectures, demonstrations and video presentations as a way to promote “fellowship,” Hendriks said.

The property remained on the tax rolls through 2023, but is now tax exempt as a religious organization, Hendriks said.

A traffic study conducted by the organization showed no additional impact to traffic off Woodbury Road. Congregants typically arrive between 7 and 9:30 a.m., Hendriks said, adding that they will stay afterward to clean the building as a way to stagger departure times.

The area is zoned as light industrial, which supports the assembly hall, Hendriks said. The site was chosen for its size and location between the Northern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway.

Organizers plan to use the existing Geico building during construction of the assembly hall. They then plan to demolish the building and sell half the property.

For some Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Long Island pilgrimage will ease the commute to Queens.

Rick Born, 64, a minister in North Coram, said he had fond memories going to assemblies with his family in Queens, but admitted New York City traffic and parking can be difficult.

“It’s going to be so much better for us. It’s going to be a great blessing for us and a time saver. It should be so much easier since you live on Long Island,” Born said. “These events are always very exciting for us and it’s looking forward to our holy days. These are the milestones and highlights of our lives.”

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