Bayside community upset over Chabad’s expansion

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The city Board of Standards and Appeals has yet to rule on the case of a Bayside synagogue seeking to build a new, larger house of worship versus neighbors who want to stop the construction.

The next hearing for the Chabad of Northeast Queens before the board, which has final say over zoning variances, was slated for June 18.

“That application is in the review process now,” said BSA Executive Director Pat Pacifico.

Meanwhile those on both sides of the issue, including the rabbi of the Chabad, the East Bayside Homeowners Association, Community Board 11 in Bayside and those who live near the synagogue, have continued the battle.

That battle over whether the synagogue should be allowed to replace its one-family home with a nearly 9,000-square-foot facility first arose last summer, when the Chabad filed its plans with the city.

The plans show that the reconstructed synagogue would include a kitchen, offices, classrooms, several bathrooms and a sanctuary with space for 140 people. Because there would be no fixed seating in the synagogue, the plans show, the builder is not required to provide parking for the house of worship.

CB 11 voted to deny the Chabad of Northeast Queens’ variance application twice, both in committee and in a vote by the full board in November.

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky of the Chabad has voiced confusion over the opposition to the planned construction.

“I believe we’re here to help, not hurt,” he said. Referring to neighbors’ fears about a lack of parking in the area, a problem that residents said would only increase if the synagogue construction is permitted, Blesofsky said “I think they are unfounded.”

Blesofsky said that since the community’s opposition became apparent, the plans for the Yankel Rosenbaum Center at 26-06 213th St. have been revised to lower the height of the structure. In addition, the size of the building has been reduced, pushing it 10 feet back from the street instead of five feet from the street, as first planned.

Originally, the Chabad had requested five variance applications. A group needs a variance when its planned construction exceeds the area’s zoning. The Chabad needed variances for its proposed building’s height and its distance from the street, among other things.

Civic leader Frank Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowners Association, and Melyn Meer, a member of CB 11, have criticized the Chabad’s plans from the start. City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has come out against the construction, as have state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside).

Skala said “It’s in a holding pattern. Maybe they’ll be reasonable and reduce the size of their building.”

The area on the south side of 26th Avenue, directly across from the retail center, is dominated by one-family homes and is on the edge of a large residential area. Residents have been particularly concerned about increased traffic in the area since the nearby Bay Terrace Shopping Center began an expansion late last year.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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