A camaraderie between Roselle Park Mayor Carl Hokanson and and property owner George D’Agostino has been reported to LocalSource by residents as well as a local business owner. The mayor requests that any residents with complaints regarding Heart of Worship Church come to discuss it with him in person. He also stated that the lack of the required handicapped parking spot is being addressed.
“I spoke to the landlord last week and he said that the handicapped parking spot will be installed as soon as possible,” said Hokanson to LocalSource.
According to Hokanson, Heart of Worship Church reserved six parking spots in Municipal Lot 2 in order to meet the building’s parking requirements. LocalSource found documentation that six spaces had been reserved in 2015, though no evidence of this was found for 2016. The municipal clerk also confirmed that as of 2016 no parking spaces have been rented to Heart of Worship Church.
The mayor also claims he spoke to the pastor of the church, and according to Pastor Desmond Yarborough, services are only held on Wednesdays and Sundays. The mayor told LocalSource, “Without seeing the these so-called parking violations I would be unable to comment on them.”
Due to the limited hours of operation, churchgoers parking on residential roads shouldn’t be an issue for residents. There are also signs on the surrounding residential road that read, “No parking permitted when snow is on the ground,” making it impossible for churchgoers to park on these roads when snow is on the ground. The property and business owners claim that only half the building is being rented to Yarborough, therefore reducing the required amount of parking spots.
“It’s completely untrue that the services are only held on Wednesdays and Sundays,” said an anonymous business owner in the area. “I witnessed people in the building all days and nights of the week. Just last night, on Saturday, there were people in the building. They have tables and chairs delivered by EZ-Rentals for parties and events they have throughout the week.”
LocalSource observed nine cars parked in the church parking lot and only six parking spaces available in the lot. These six spaces, in addition to the six spots that were supposed to have been rented in Municipal Lot 2, would make the 12 required spots for half the building that’s being occupied by Heart of Worship Church.
“I can hear the guitar and drums late at night inside my house around 9 or 10 at night,” said an anonymous resident of Roselle Park. “I live about two blocks from the church. They claim to only be renting half the building, but why are so many tables and chairs being delivered when an event is held? Sometimes I have to park over a block and a half away due to the amount of cars parked on residential roads. You can’t get anywhere near it. None of the residents even bother reporting our complaints to the police because we feel that no one will address our concerns. When police were called in the past, they asked people to move their cars from the residential roads, and that was it. No one was ticketed, and no police report was filed.”
When LocalSource attempted to contact Yarborough regarding the dates and times of services, all attempts of communication were unsuccessful. The email address provided on the church’s website is invalid. A phone call made by LocalSource went unanswered, in addition to a voicemail that was left by LocalSource requesting the information. Lastly, a message was sent on Facebook that also went unanswered.
“The people of Heart of Worship Church are very nice people,” said property owner D’Agostino. “The residents are only complaining because it’s a minority church. These people want nothing but the best for Roselle Park. They go out of their way to do volunteer service work for the town.”
LocalSource’s observation of illegally parked vehicles on the church property has not been addressed. LocalSource observed the pastor parked in what seemed to be an illegal spot on the property, in addition to two other vehicles illegally parked in the rear of the church. There were also cars parked along residential roads.
“The pastor was parked on his property,” said Hokanson, who observed the scene at a different time. “I witnessed two vehicles parked in violation on the corner and the drivers walked down to the Dance Studio.”
The dance studio is located next door to the church. The two vehicles LocalSource observed illegally parked in the back of the church have also not been addressed. A local property owner and residents are concerned about the safety of residents due to the number of cars parked in the church lot.
“There is a tunnel in the back of the church,” a resident claimed. “Someone could be walking or riding a bike through the tunnel and get hit by one of the vehicles parked in the church lot. There is a crosswalk in the middle of the parking lot, and churchgoers park on either side of it. It’s inevitable that the vehicles would have to drive over the crosswalk in order to travel in and out the church parking lot. This poses a safety issue to the residents of Roselle Park.”