Sunday, July 31, 2005

Church-State/Quaker History

1694 Quaker Meeting House Gets $500,000 For Repairs

Queens Chronicle/
New York/NY/USA/30-Jul-05

…City funds totalling $500,000 will be used by the cash-strapped members of the Quaker Meeting House in Flushing to make vital repairs to the 1694 building.
Councilman John Liu announced the allocation last week, which had been held up since last year due to a technicality in the law that does not allow funding to religious institutions. Since the Quaker Meeting House is a historic structure, it qualifies for the money. “This is great news,” said Linda Shirley, administrative clerk for the local Quakers. She and Jerry Pollack, business clerk, help run the meeting house. Quakers do not have pastors or officers.
The approximately 31 members have been desperately seeking funds since 2003, when it was determined that the building needs a new red cedar shingle roof, restoration work to its Yankee gutters, porch repairs, a fire sprinkler system and structural repairs.
Last year, the local group received a state grant of $100,000 and estimated at least $300,000 was needed to renovate the facility. Shirley said the city and state are working together on the funding, which requires a lot of paperwork. “But there is a lot of cooperation and we are so relieved we can do it because the work is needed as soon as possible.” She hopes the repairs can start within a year.
Since the first work estimates, additional deterioration and water damage from the faulty roof have taken place. If funding allows, a new furnace will also be installed.
Liu has called the Quaker Meeting House a valuable resource in downtown Flushing. “We don’t want to lose our history. It is such a beautiful place to sit in and so few people know about it.” He expects the money to be freed up soon. “It took longer than I liked.”
Built on land sold by Flushing pioneer and farmer John Bowne, the meeting house was enlarged in 1717 and has remained virtually unchanged since then. The back of the building, with its original glass panes, fronts on Northern Boulevard.
The wooden building is considered the oldest house of worship in New York City. The only time it wasn’t used by the Quakers was during the Revolutionary War, when British troops occupied it and utilized it as a hospital.
The original three acres of land have over the years been reduced to about three-quarters of an acre and the grounds, in the rear, contain early graves, including that of Bowne, whose home remains nearby on Bowne Street.
The Quakers meet on Sundays at 11 a.m. for a one-hour service that begins and ends in silence. The building is then open for tours from noon to 12:30 p.m. or by appointment.
The local Quaker Meeting House, located at 137-16 Northern Boulevard, participates in Open House NY, where points of interest throughout the city hold tours on October 8th and 9th.
The group also holds silent vigils every Saturday at 12:15 p.m. in front of the Army Recruiting Station two blocks down on Northern Boulevard. Quakers do not believe in war.
“We do have a small increase in memberships and are seeing more walk-ins,” Shirley said. For information on the Quaker Meeting House, call 718-358-9636. ...


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