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Church bells are making life near a Marine Park house of worship a living hell — and critics are raising Cain about the alleged din.
“This has nothing to do with religion, I’m not against religion — just the noise,” said John Russo, who lives behind St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 1550 Hendrickson Street.
Russo, 68, said he has endured two years without peace in his home, thanks to the audio speakers at the church that emit recorded bells and melodies all week, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The retired Macy’s window display designer has taken a bit of his craft home with him, adorning his front lawn and exterior of his Coleman Street home with signs urging the church to turn down the volume.
Russo, who has lived on the block for the past 30 years, said his quality of life began to diminish once the church began employing the speaker system about two years ago. He said he’s tried to reason with the church’s pastor, Rev. Thomas Doyle, but was met with a cold shoulder. “He said, ‘I can do what I want,’” Russo claimed. At press time, a call left for the pastor was not returned.
According to Mercedes Padilla, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the city’s noise code does not apply to the “operation or use of any organ, bell, chimes or other similar instrument [by] from on or within any church, synagogue, mosque or [school] other house of worship.” She said when cases like this arise, the agency “works closely” with the community or church to “solve it the best way possible.” She noted that this year, the DEP has only received one complaint regarding the church and noise, and it was regarding gardening equipment in August. She insisted that her agency has not received complaints from the community about the tolling of the bells at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Russo recognizes he has an uphill battle — but he said he has 58 names on a petition to help bolster the case and get the volume lowered.“It’s like David fighting Goliath,” he conceded.
City Councilmember Lew Fidler offered to play Solomon and mediate the situation. “My office is willing at any time, if community residents and the religious institution want to sit down and have a discussion to work out a compromise,” Fidler said. “I am ready,” he continued. “It’s a standing offer that will not change.” So far, the local lawmaker admitted, there has been no success in brokering a meeting between the two sides, where the feelings remain “bitter.”
Longtime Coleman Street resident Genevieve Cardiello said she isn’t at all flummoxed by the bells. “I don’t see anything wrong with them,” she said. “It’s not blasting or anything like that, she continued,adding that only a small percentage of residents are actually opposed to the bells. Cardiello, 82, said she is a longtime parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas and she is getting tired of looking at Russo’s signs, which proclaim, “There is nothing Christian about Doyle’s behavior towards his neighbors” and “No serenity here thanks to Doyle and his bells.” Cardiello isn’t impressed. “I get tired of looking at them. He puts up a sign every couple of weeks.”
But local resident JosephZelinski, 70, said he too has grown weary of the bells.“I’m a Catholic and I’ve attended church there,” he said. “But the noise factor is driving people away,” he said.
The church should not be exempt from the noise code, since the sounds are not caused by bells, but by speakers, he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the speakers are against the law.” Zelinski said he plans to appeal to a higher authority, invoking church canon law, which he said states that “the church is supposed to work with the neighborhood.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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