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Poll: Is St. Mary & St. Mercurius Dome Proposal Best for Belleville?

Academy Street residents opposed, but library likes the idea

Anne Marie Pruznak and Elaine Walicky are next-door neighbors who reside directly across from on Academy Street, where a proposal for the church's controversial monolithic dome and youth center could finally obtain approval from the township's zoning board meeting tonight.

Although Pruznak and Walicky have resigned themselves to this reality – this will be the fourth time the church presents its proposal in as many months – it does not mean the long time residents of the small, one-way street are accepting.

“I know it's going to pass. Very rarely is a church ever turn down for any expansion,” said Pruznak, the niece of late former Third Ward Councilman Paul “PJ” MacDonald and one of six generations in her family who have lived in her current home. “I already thought ahead to the next steps, trying to get permit parking for the streets and see if I could get that passed.

“But my concerns are the Belleville police, I know they're on a tight budget – how is that go to work on a high holy day as far as traffic and policing? All of that is concerning. Is all of that go to be taken seriously?”

While Walicky believes “everyone is entitled to their prayer” she is similarly worried.

“I have absolutely no problem with the church being across the street,” the 30-year resident of Belleville said. “They're putting up something … St. Mary's church and St. Peter's church are on a full block. They're going to build something that big on half of a block. … I think on a small, one-way street, it's just a disaster.”

Not all neighbors find fault with St. Mary & St. Mercurius' plan for expansion. From her perspective, Belleville Public Library and Information Center Director Joan Taub called the church “very good neighbors.”

“I have no complaints whatsoever,” Taub said. “I know it's not the same as being a resident, but they've been good to the library.

“It looks like there's a possibility that if it goes through for the church, we could use their parking lot,” Taub continued. “I don't think there could be anything better than having parking for our patrons.”

Although the seemingly inevitable passage of this proposal could potentially benefit the library, both Pruznak and Walicky cited security worries based upon fear of a terroristic attack in January 2011 that forced both of their children to show their driver's licenses before being allowed to proceed home.

However, both residents say their primary issues with the church's project are centered solely around logistics. Although the monolithic dome would be historic for the township, congestion remains a concern despite the St. Mary & St. Mercurius proposal providing 126 parking spaces on three floors of the new domed building – two of which would reside underground.

“This is tantamount to a cathedral being built on an itty, bitty residential street,” Pruznak said.

Readers, what do you think? Is the St. Mary & St. Mercurius proposal right or wrong for Belleville? Take our poll below and weigh in with your comments.

Anonymous February 02, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I’m sure the residents of Academy Street are resigned to the fact that this is a “DONE” deal and there isn’t really much more they could do to stop it. They have gone to the meetings, expressed their concerns but they were only heard because it was a matter of circumstance – protocol that needed to be followed. Everyone is just going through the motions now. The ink has already dried on the approvals and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that all those in favor of the proposal do not reside on Academy Street and will not be effected by it. This is evident by the remarks made by Ms. Taub (from the library) above. Of course they are in favor of it - they will BENEFIT from it. Of course if you will benefit from something, you will approve it. I wonder though, has anyone stopped to think about possible traffic issues for the residents of Academy Street? After all, while Academy Street is a one-way street, it is a RESIDENTIAL one way street, which is already heavily trafficked as it leads down to Washington Avenue. But why a Township would care about its residents is beyond me. Just saying is all.
sam February 02, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Architecturally speaking, it is an improvement to the street. The place doesn’t look like a house now, and although it is surrounded by homes, I can’t see how the dome will hurt the surrounding. It should be an added value which is good for everyone.
marina youssef February 02, 2012 at 10:38 PM
I ll add on sam, the traffic on the academy street will not be more, however, it will be the same because the dome will be built for the same church, which means the same amount of the church members will be coming anyway to this street. Actually the dome will improve the parking system for the residents because there will be parking for the church members at the lower levels of the building and more parking spots for the residents on the street.
Mark February 02, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I don't understand why neighbors would be complaining about traffic since it is for the same church that currently exists. It would be improving the parking situation for the neighbors, the church, and library. It will improve the area by knocking down 3 old houses that is prone to fire and put up a sturdy building. The area behind the houses is dirt and rocks which is kicked up in the air everytime cars roll over it. This will remove that. Most important it will provide the youth space to conduct Bible study, perform plays, and a host of other activities.
AnneMarie February 03, 2012 at 02:36 AM
We complain about the traffic because the bigger the church the more people that will come,They will fill up those 126 parking spots and be right back to taking up all the street parking and the Valley National Parking lot as for the 3 homes,I know for a fact one was completly renavated not 10 yrs ago,not to mention the taxes the town will lose as churches are tax excempt. The whole idea is just so insane from start to finish.
Afraim February 03, 2012 at 03:23 AM
AnneMarie, I see your point of view, and you make a valid argument. However, the I see it is this church is being blessed with growth day by day. This means that regardless of weather the building goes up or not, the church congregation will continue to increase and flourish. I agree with you that maybe the current parking system could be better so that we do not stress the street parking too much. But being opposed to this building is not the way to go about it. If anything the building will improve the situation and remove the cars from the street. Not to mention the dozens of other benefits that it will serve like providing a place for the coptic youth of belleville and the surrounding towns to come to service in unity, new location for sunday school classes to be held, provide the neighborhood with a new landmark and personality, and many more. I think the structure will be a huge benefit to the whole community, and not just SM&SM Coptic church.
Ehab February 03, 2012 at 05:01 AM
We want our youth to grow in the church. We need more space for more activities
Fred February 03, 2012 at 02:44 PM
The folks living in Academy st. ought to be the first to approve this project given the current parking situation. The church aim is to "contain" the congregation in a church-owned parking lot, giving way more spaces on academy street & let alone the bank parking. Residences of Academy should see the benefits of the project specially on Sundays & the main church holidays when they realize the traffic is smoother & a lot emptier. Overall the church congregation, kids, church properties will be "contained" "enclosed" and all the current activities - Sunday schools & summer club - will occur quietly without causing any annoyance or distress to the neighbors.
Dr.Youssef.Estedrak February 03, 2012 at 04:53 PM
The dome will improve the parking system for the residents because there will be parking for the church members at the lower levels of the building and more parking spots for the residents on the street.
AnneMarie February 04, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Let me try again to explain my point! I do NOT in any way shape or form oppose the building of this historical and majestic church in Belleville. What I do oppose is the location! St Peter's not half the size of this planned project takes up one whole city block as does St Mary's in Nutley, The size and magnatude of this domed structure is too big for such a small one way street. It will be the 1st of it's kind in the north-east,You can't tell me it will not attract many-many more people and the traffic that goes with that. Build in Belleville by all means,but on a more appropriate location, Upper Washinton ave has many vacant lots,or maybe the newly vacated property on the corner of Mill and Franklin,both are on 4 laned state roads with access to the NJ parkway and all major highways. It's just my opinion,but I don't think this idea, this vision was to well thought out,the logistics just don't work for all involved.
Sameh Beshara February 13, 2012 at 09:36 PM
The dome will provide many activities for everyone . it will make the kids happy
puggsy March 12, 2012 at 04:34 PM
If the church feels it will be handling the same amount of members, why have the rooms that will hold hundreds of people been added. If the congregation isn't growing, why is so much more space needed. It is too big for that area. As far as the library being in favor, the church has made promises to the library - I believe $30,000. People on the library board have political connections. The whole thing stinks. And once again, those people most affected will be ignored.

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