CityLine: June 6, 2001 -- City Hall
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted Wednesday evening that it would not revoke the First Assembly of God church building permit and thereby halt ongoing construction of a new sanctuary on the church property at Soundview Avenue.
After more than an hour of passionate, intense presentation by Eli Vigliano, legal counsel to Doris Sassower and her daughter, and a statement from Doris Sassower Soundview resident,the Zoning Board voted to deny their request the Building Permit be revoked. Mrs. Sassower was supported by Isabel Hausner, and several residents. Ms. Hausner bore a petition of neighbors supporting the Permit revocation, signed by, she said, 50 residents along the Soundview Avenue corridor.
ZBA Chairperson, Cecelia Bikkal, twice attempted to call the question on grounds that the applicants were going over previous arguments made at the last zoning board meeting May 2, however Mrs. Sassower refused to yield the floor because she wanted to make a statement in response to the Assembly of God Church attorney who was not present.
Relenting, Ms. Bikkal granted Ms. Sassower the right to read a statement rebutting a May 1 letter to the Zoning Board from William Null, the counsel representing the First Assembly of God Church, supporting his client's position and questioning Mrs. Sassower's basis for her zoning board request. Ms. Sassower wanted to read the statement because she had just became aware of Mr. Null's letter to the board the previous evening, June 5, when the Board had received it May 1, 2001.
In her response to Mr. Null's letter, Mrs. Sassower, in a red pants suit and white blouse, sometimes faltering, in a slightly hoarse voice took apart Mr. Null's arguments one-by-one.
She said she "I obect to any consideration by the Board of Mr. Null's letter....As you will note from the indicated list of designated recipients, neither Mr. Vigliano nor I was included. Such breach of Mr. Null's ethical duty to inform me of communications by him with you or other memebrs of the Board on behalf of the Church violates the Code of Professional Responsibility Governing Attorneys. This omission was severely prejudicial as the Chair did not identify receipt of such letter at the following night's Public Hearing (May 2, 2001), so as to afford me or Mr. Vigliano the opportunity to be heard with respect to same at that time."
The Zoning Board attempted repeatedly and heatedly to call the question, and eventually managed to do so, saying it did not have jurisiction in the matter, since the Common Council approved the issuing of the permits. Mrs. Sassower strongly objected that the Board was denying her right of free speech and right to comment.
It is Mrs. Sassower's contention that the Assembly of God did not obtain a proper parking arrangement for their new construction as requested to do so by the Common Council. It is the Planning Department position, according to Michael Graessle, that a parking agreement has been worked out prior to the granting of permits in which the Assembly of God already shares parking with religious temples in the Soundview corridor that would adequately handle the increased capacity.
The Zoning Board expressed the position that only the Common Council could suspend the construction, since they approved it in the first place.
It has not been determined whether or not the Council will take up this issue on July 2.
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