The Floral Park Board of Trustees reserved decision last week on a special permit application for installation of a generator at the United Methodist Church of Floral Park.
At the conclusion of a public hearing on the application at last week’s Tuesday night village board meeting, Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy said there were “many issues” to consider about the generator, which is intended to enable the church to set up a warming center in case of a widespread power outage in the area.
“It’s not for the church. It’s for the community,” United Methodist Pastor Gainus Sikes said.
“It is a most noble cause you have,” Tweedy told Sikes.
But residents who live nearby the church uniformly voiced opposition to the proposed warming center.
“It is wholly inappropriate for a transit population hanging around in a residential neighborhood,” said Andrew Weiss.
Weiss, who said he lives across the street from the church, expressed concern about garbage disposal and the lack of any security plan for the warming center to deal with people in “crisis mode” during a public emergency.
He also expressed doubt that the church would restrict usage of the center to Floral Park and Bellerose residents.
“When it all goes horribly wrong, it’ll be your responsibility to deal with it,” Weiss told the trustees.
Other village residents reiterated issues Weiss raised, also expressing issues about noise from the generator and people loitering in the alley next to the church. They also pointed out that the village recreation center is available for use in emergencies, as it was during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“I don’t understand how it’s even being considered,” said Ellen Kenneally, citing potential problems with vehicular traffic and crowd control.
“It’s going to put people in potential danger,” said John Crawford.
Crawford said he lives across the alley where the generator would be located. Village resident Joseph Contardi expressed support for the warming center, saying it would be “a good thing for the community” that would only be used “once in a blue moon.”
Responding to trustees questions about crowd control, Sikes said he could not account for what people might do when not on church property.
“Once they step on private property, how can I control them?” Sikes said.
He said while in the warming center, volunteers would be supervising activities, including food preparation and use of any appliances.
“We have people who have volunteered to assist. We’ll be there 24-7, as long as a state of emergency is declared,” Sikes said.
In response to a question from village trustee Dr. Lynn Pombonyo about making people in the center aware of procedures to be followed in the warming center, Sikes said procedures would be posted. And he emphasized his objective to aid the community.
“I’ve always tried to make it a community church,” said Sikes, who is also chaplain of the Floral Park Fire Department.
Sikes said he could return donations made for the generator if the special permit isn’t granted and sounded a note of resignation about the proposal for the warming center, which was first developed by the church last year.
“This has been going on for entirely too long,” he said of the ongoing discussions in the community about the center.
After the meeting, Sikes said the church had compiled approximately $17,000 in donations for the generator and said the church would pay the remaining costs. He estimated the total cost would be $35,000 to $40,000.