nameplate
Rendering of the proposed Woodbury Jehovah’s Witnesses assembly hall. (Photo courtesy LI Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Jehovah’s Witnesses Plan To Open Assembly Center In Woodbury

A new neighbor may be coming to Woodbury.
The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses purchased the GEICO Corporate Office at 750 Woodbury Road in December 2022 and submitted applications to the Town of Oyster Bay in May 2023 to develop an assembly hall for weekend gatherings.

750 Woodbury Road, Woodbury. (Photo by Jennifer Corr)

Robert Hendriks, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, stated that only site work had been done on the property to remove trees to address a bat issue. A permit was also approved to fence the site to secure it.
“At this point, we have not commenced construction,” Hendriks said.
Town of Oyster Bay officials told Syosset Jericho Tribune that a Planning Advisory Board hearing has been scheduled for April 11 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall North. The meeting will be open to the public and a recording will be available on the town’s website.
According to a website about the project from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the facility will be used for weekend gatherings from the greater Long Island community.
The former owner of the property, GEICO, operated a 239,000-square-foot four-story office building with 1,838 parking spots and 3,000 employees with a usage of 300 days per year, six days per week, and 18 hours per day.
In contrast, the Jehovah’s Witnesses will operate a 53,000-square-foot, one-story assembly hall with 709 parking spots, an average attendance of 1,450 when in use, and a usage of 75 days per year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., including 62 Saturday and Sunday programs and 13 Friday programs. No programs will be scheduled for Monday through Thursday.
“Like local churches, we have a local, what’s called a Kingdom Hall,” Hendriks explained. “There are well over 50 Kingdom Halls on Long Island that Jehovah’s Witnesses attend each week, but we have special meetings that are called assemblies. We have two assemblies and one convention every year. There’s three major events that bring together 10 to 12 congregations at a time. And those congregations… are somewhere in the area of about 1,000 to 1,300 people at a time.”
Hendriks further explained that these events take place once every six months. Congregants would have to drive from as far as Peconic, which is in the Town of Southhold, to the assembly hall in Queens. The assembly would often take place from 9:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“It takes for a congregant from Peconic, for example, up to three to three-and-a-half hours to get in, and then it takes time to find street parking…,” Hendriks said. “Going home on a Saturday or a Sunday night, you would think the traffic is okay, but it’s really rough. It’s a lot for our congregants from all over the area to travel to Queens and some of them also travel, at times, to Brooklyn.”

Rendering of the proposed Woodbury Jehovah’s Witnesses assembly hall.
(Courtesy LI Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Congregants have been commuting to assemblies in Queens for decades. Hendriks, who grew up in Central Islip, remembers the commute.
“Our family started going to Queens Assembly Hall, I think in 1975-76,” Hendriks said. “Ever since then, everybody has been doing that two or three times a year. And we enjoyed it. It was an outing for the family. It was a special weekend of activities. But over time, it’s wearing and it has become more difficult, especially with increase in traffic in all parts of Long Island, in the city and also the difficulty of parking in the city.”
If the assembly hall in Woodbury is approved, the commute to assemblies will now be very convenient for Long Island Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Further, they get to walk into a brand new facility that’s designed for the type of education that we give at these conventions, the type of socialization, the type of fellowship,” Hendriks said. “It’s a modern design. It’s comfortable and it can accommodate families where there is a real ability to just concentrate, meditate and enjoy your surroundings in a peaceful and beautiful facility.”
Hendriks called it a “dream come true” for Long Island Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who are interested in the faith.
If the plan is approved in the spring, construction will take place Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Assembly halls, according to the project’s website, historically take 12 to 14 months of construction to complete. If everything goes as scheduled, the assembly hall will open in 2025.
The website also states that a traffic study commissioned for the project from Nelson + Pope determined that “construction of the proposed facility will not result in an adverse traffic impact at the study intersections and the surrounding roadways.”
Trained volunteers would also help direct parking on weekends when the assembly hall is in use.
The former GEICO building will be used for administrative functions during construction. However, the application before the Town of Oyster Bay calls for it to be demolished and for the front 10 acres to be sold.
While the assembly hall will only be in use 75 days a year, the property will be monitored 24/7 by security and an on-site caretaker who will live on the property.
“There are three buildings that are being built,” Hendriks said. “One is the assembly hall, one is what we call a parsonage or a small residence and then another is just a maintenance building.”
Besides benefiting local congregants, Hendriks said the assembly hall should bring many benefits to the Town of Oyster Bay and the surrounding neighborhood.
“It fits the local community,” Hendriks said. “We’re located in an industrial park and we’re just adjacent to a residential community, just adjacent to a church. This is an upgrade because we’re taking a light industrial piece of property and we’re using it in the least intense way you could possibly use it. We’re going to have 75 days of usage a year. It’s going to be the quietest, most secure facility that they could want as neighbors.”
A community impact analysis commissioned from consulting firm BBC Research & Consulting found that over several decades, the impact of the assembly hall’s operation would contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Nassau County’s economy, sustaining hundreds of jobs.
“On an economic front, we’ll bring in over $1.1 million in annual sales tax and lodging tax revenue to the area,” Hendriks said.
Finally, according to the website, the introduction of the assembly hall to Woodbury will not increase door-to-door ministry, which is handled by local congregations, in the surrounding neighborhoods.
For more information, visit jw-longisland.org.

Ukrainian Rocker Talks
Fundraising For Friends,
25 Years Of Touring

Gogol Bordello to play free benefit
in Tompkins Square Park

By Cory Olsen – April 15, 2024

THIS WEEK'S
SPECIAL SECTIONS

Profiles In Education Cover
UPCOMING EVENTS
  • No events