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Avella opposes variances for Bayside synagogue

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A Bayside synagogue seeking permission for a large expansion acquired another opponent last week when City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) voiced his disapproval of the 26th Avenue project, calling the proposed rebuilding “outrageous construction.”

Plans to convert a one-family home at the corner of 26th Avenue and 213th Street into a 9,000-square-foot house of worship have been criticized in recent months by Bayside civic leaders, neighbors and Community Board 11. CB 11 has voted to deny the Chabad of Northeast Queens’ variance application twice.

Avella, a Whitestone resident and former civic activist, said in a statement he understood the Chabad’s need for expansion but “the location is not appropriate for such a large building.”

The councilman said he would ask the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which has been reviewing the case, to deny the Chabad’s variance application.

The Chabad House of Northeast Queens purchased the one-family home it now uses for services in 1999. The proposed synagogue, at 26-06 213th St., is to be officially named the Yankel Rosenbaum Center.

Plans filed with the city show the reconstructed synagogue would include a kitchen, offices, classrooms, several bathrooms and a sanctuary with room 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.

The area on the south side of 26th Avenue, directly across from the retail center, is dominated by one-family homes and is 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.

The proposed synagogue needs at least five variances from the city, because if the new construct were to be built as is now planned, it would exceed height restrictions, take up too much land on its plot and would not be set back far enough from the sidewalk on 26th Avenue for the current zoning.

The proposed synagogue would be the largest building in the neighborhood and overshadow many surrounding structures.

Avella, who was recently named chairman of the City Council’s Zoning and Franchises subcommittee, said “the variance asks to waive five separate parts of the zoning code. Without a doubt, this is a gross manipulation of the variance process.

“It would not only destroy the quality of life in this section of Bayside,” Avella said. “But would also set a precedent for further outrageous construction.”

According to a glossy, 14-page brochure describing the new synagogue, the Yankel Rosenbaum Center will provide a number of services. A preschool, a community Hebrew school and teen center, mikvahs, or ritual baths, an Adult Education Institute & Library, a parenting center and full-service synagogue were all described at length in the brochure.

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

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