Plainview Sikh temple opens after five years of disputes and delays

The new Gurdwara is three floors with a main hall that can accommodate the congregation's 300 families

NEW YORK: Long Island's Sikh community has a new home in Plainview after five years of starts and stalls.

The revamped Guru Gobind Sikh Center on Old Country Road opened this past summer after years of disputes with the Town of Oyster Bay and residents.

“I’m always surprised with how beautiful it is,” temple president Surinder Chawla said as he looked at the congregation kneeling together in prayer on Friday. “At the end, I thank God for it.”

The new temple, on the location of a smaller one, is three floors tall with a main hall that can accommodate the congregation’s 300 families. A gilded altar stands at the front of the temple where the head priest is stationed and where the faith’s holy book rests. The basement level includes a cafeteria where big pots of lentils and curry simmer, to be served to congregants and anyone else in the community for free.

The original temple was converted from an old church and was the first of three Sikh temples on Long Island.

The $3 million project started in 2014 and was expected to be finished the following year. The congregation, which had grown from about 50 families when it first opened in 1987, needed more space, Chawla said.

About a year later, town officials halted construction, saying the temple didn’t comply with an off-street parking plan. Residents had complained cars were clogging nearby Hope Court, a small street that includes temple property.  

In June 2016, the congregation filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. Eastern District Court against Oyster Bay alleging their religious freedom guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 had been violated, Chawla said.

Construction resumed after the town board voted to settle the lawsuit later that year. Under a consent order, the temple agreed to add landscaping, lower lights to reduce its visual impact and reduce the number of parking spots to 61 spaces.

“It was a very difficult fight, but we never gave it up,” Chawla said.

Add a Comment