Building for Orthodox Jews to go up in Kew Gdns Hills

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Construction on the...

By Tien-Shun Lee

A $109 million, 388-unit luxury apartment building designed with a special sabbath elevator as well as rooms and appliances to accommodate the practices of Orthodox Jews is being constructed behind Touro College in Kew Gardens Hills.

Construction on the apartments at 75-25 153rd St. began last month on a five-acre parcel of land that the developer, the Dermot Co., bought from Touro College in conjunction with the AFL-CIO, which has invested $34.9 million in the project. The apartments are expected to be completed by early 2005, according to an executive from Dermot.

“The project is specifically designed to accommodate Orthodox Jewish tenants and is one of the first large-scale rental area projects in the New York area to do so,” said Stephen Benjamin, a principal at Dermot. “We intend to provide a luxury residential housing option in an area where none currently exists.”

Designed by architect Thomas O’Hara, the building will have two identical L-shaped towers with stepped-up heights ranging from five stories to 14 stories. Apartment units will range from 500-square-foot studios to 1,800-square-foot four-bedroom duplexes.

The building will have a special elevator programmed to automatically stop on every floor on the sabbath and during holidays so that Orthodox Jews do not have to press buttons and can abide by Jewish rules, which state that no electrical equipment should be operated during the sabbath.

Inside the apartments, the kitchens will have double sinks so that meat and dairy products can be kept apart during cooking, according to kosher rules, ovens that remain lit during the sabbath and on holidays, and dishwashers with stainless steel interiors so that dishes can be easily kosherized.

Master bedrooms will be large enough to accommodate an extra bed so that husbands and wives can sleep apart during the time of the month when they are forbidden to have physical contact. Living rooms will be large enough to fit dining tables for at least 12 people, enabling family and friends to gather in the apartments for sabbath dinners.

The L-shaped towers will border three sides of a landscaped courtyard with a water fountain. The rooftop will be large enough to accommodate sukkahs, the straw huts where meals are eaten during the Jewish Sukkot festival in the fall. The building grounds will include three children’s playgrounds and a half-court basketball court.

In addition, the building will have 10,000 square feet of community space, a health club, a party room, music room, tenant lounge, two-story lobby and concierge and doorman services.

The apartments will have 482 underground parking spaces for tenants, who are expected to be mostly but not exclusively Orthodox Jews.

“I think it’s great. I think it’ll be very, very good for the community, and we are looking forward to getting more information about it,” said Community Board 8 District Manager Diane Cohen about the development.

Cohen and CB 8 Chairman Alvin Warshaviak said they were trying to organize a meeting with the developer to find out exactly what is being planned and to discuss issues such as parking that are a concern to the community.

According to the Dermot Co., 80 percent of the apartments will be rent-stabilized, with starting prices set at market rates. The remaining apartments will be reserved for people with incomes no greater than 50 percent of the median income for the metropolitan area, which is $51,900 for a family of four.

The AFL-CIO invested in the apartments as part of its National Apartment Initiative, a program that gives pension funds to developers across the country as an investment, said Barbara Wagner, a spokeswoman for the Dermot Co.

With the heavy demand for Orthodox Jewish services in the neighborhood, which has more than 30 synagogues, there is already a waiting list for the apartments, Wagner said.

“It’s a great thing because it fits in with the community that is ever growing,” Warshaviak said. “There’s such an overwhelming demand by Orthodox Jews to move in there. I think if it meets their needs, it will strengthen the community.”

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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