Woodside community groups gathered for a rally last Thursday underneath the 69th Street Roosevelt Avenue 7 train to celebrate their victory in a yearlong battle against a mega-church that wanted to expand to nearly double its size.
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which is located at 68-03 Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside, announced in September 2016 that it planned to expand its current building into a megachurch that would stand 70 feet high, violating a New York City building code that limits the height of buildings in the area.
In the wake of the proposal, community organizations—including Anakbayan New York, Filipino American Democratic Club, UniPro, Queens Anti-Gentrification Project (QAGP)—and various community leaders formed the Coalition to Defend Little Manila, which opposed the church’s expansion as well as the gentrification of the neighborhood.
Community Board 2’s land use committee opposed the proposal in January, while the entire board voted against it in February. The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) dismissed the application in June.
“It was the residents and business owners, the youth and students who voiced their concerns by petitioning against the construction of the mega-church, attending community board meetings and sharing with members of the coalition on how they opposed such a development in their community,” said Michael Garrovillas, the secretary general of Anakbayan New York and a Woodside resident.
But while the megachurch’s expansion will not move forward, Woodside residents at the rally also protested against other proposed projects that they believe would lead to gentrification in the community—such as the BQX streetcar, Long Island City core rezoning and Sunnyside Yard development.
“Our fight against the mega-church rezoning is just the start—we as grassroots organizers will continue to stand in solidarity against projects like the triple threat,” said Grace Chung of QAGP. “These plans may start in Long Island City, but they will directly hurt low income and working-class communities like Little Manila as land values rise and people are pushed deeper and deeper into Queens in search of relatively ‘cheaper’ rents.”