By Stan Friedman
NEW YORK, NY (February 20, 2012) – A third congregation connected with the Evangelical Covenant Church has found temporary meeting space after being evicted from the public schools where they had been worshiping.
New Vision Community Church will meet in the Student Union of the Queensborough Community College until the end of May, says Pastor Martin Chang. The congregation is a non-denominational church being adopted into the Covenant at this year’s Annual Meeting in June.
The church is one of 60 from different denominations the city had evicted from schools as of this week. Two other Covenant congregations, Queenswest Covenant Church in Long Island, and Hope Church in Astoria, already had found alternate space.
New Vision will continue to search for another more permanent venue – the search had been ongoing long before the eviction.
“We’ve run into all kinds of difficulty because of the lack of spaces zoned for public assembly,” says Chang.
New Vision thought at one point that they had arranged to meet at a location used for several years by another church that has since moved out. When church leaders went to the city to get the building plans, they learned the owners had previously requested permitting for church use, but was twice denied a Certificate of Occupancy.
“I feel like I’ve gotten an intensive degree in commercial real estate,” says Chang. “We’ve been having to work through all kinds of short-term rental and long-term lease options. We’re also having to work through the bureaucracy of organizations, zoning boards, dealing with architects and lawyers – more than we had bargained for.”
Now the church expects it will eventually have to pay up to $10,000 in architectural, lawyer and consultant fees before finding a suitable location.
“Queenswest, which is pastored by James Kim, has negotiated a lease with The Secret Theatre. It is close to the school where they had been meeting and actually costs less than the school.
Hope Church is an upcoming plant scheduled to begin weekly meetings in September and was able to lease space at Legal Outreach, a nearby nonprofit organization. The launch team will meet in homes until they are able to move into the new space March 25.
Leaders of different faiths have protested the evictions and said the city’s actions will hurt residents who have benefited from the church’s presence. “For now it seems that the poor and marginalized of New York City will be the ones to suffer the loss of services provided by these congregations,” says East Coast Conference Superintendent Howard Burgoyne. “For this I grieve most of all.”
Last Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a 10-day injunction that forbids the city from preventing churches to meet in schools. The court said it wanted to reconsider the constitutional issues. All of the evicted Covenant churches will continue to meet in their new sites, they say.