Church expansion plan in Hackensack neighborhood being reviewed

St. Gabriel’s Syriac Orthodox Church leadership, located on Fairmount Avenue, proposed building a new church and meeting hall on the corner of Grand and Ross avenues. The Hackensack Zoning Board is considering the proposal.

City Construction Code Official Joseph Mellone said the proposed church complex would be on a 1-acre site with the addresses of 80 Grand Ave. and 90 Ross Ave. The church would be approximately 4,900 square feet, and the meeting hall would be 7,900 square feet. Five classrooms are also being proposed.

Mellone said that according to city building ordinances, the proposed structures require a total of 370 parking spaces. The church’s proposal, however, calls for 40 spaces.

“Churches are generally considered beneficial to the area. However, when it is in a residential zone, proposing a building as such, with such a parking shortage, could adversely affect the neighborhood,” said Mellone. “The board will take everything into consideration when hearing testimony about the project.”

Benjamin Isik, the secretary of the board of trustees for St. Gabriel’s, said that the 120-family parish has grown because of an influx of immigrants from Syria and Turkey, and that the church community would like to have a newer facility.

“What we have now is outdated,” said Isik, commenting on the church where the community has held services for approximately 15 years. “We’d like to have a newer facility with a little larger seating capacity, as well as have some Sunday school classrooms.”

But Milly Salerno, a Ross Avenue resident who lives two houses away from the proposed church site, expressed concern about the potential increase in traffic.

“It’s about the quality of life in our neighborhood, especially with parking up and down Grand Avenue with increased traffic on Sunday morning,” said Salerno. “It has nothing to do with what sort of church it is. Any type of structure that is going to bring that sort of traffic, we don’t want it. It will be even worse than it is now.”

In addressing both residents’ and the city’s concerns, Isik said, “Hackensack has been a home for us, and we have a feeling of responsibility to the neighborhood. We’ve had zero parking at our church, and it’s been about 10 to 20 cars that have been causing a parking problem. We feel very strongly that going from zero parking spaces to forty is more than sufficient for an average Sunday.”

The Zoning Board’s next meeting is currently schedule for June