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Bayside Jewish center seeks to buy neighbor

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City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) has set aside $500,000 in this fiscal year's city budget and $750,000 in the 2006 budget for the Chabad of Northeast Queens to purchase and renovate a neighboring building. The move was designed to end ongoing community objections to the center's plans to erect a new 8,000-square-foot building in the residential neighborhood."This certainly is preferable to the original situation where there was some community opposition," Weprin said in a recent telephone interview. "Everybody would prefer them to remain in the building they are in now. It's a win-win situation.""We envision this becoming a true community center," said Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky, head of the Chabad.Weprin, chairman of the Council's Finance Committee, said the idea for the city allocation was initiated by Blesofsky and former Borough President Claire Shulman, acting as a community advocate.The purchase of the pediatric neurological agency ANIBIC's building at 212-12 26th Ave. next door to the Chabad would provide the Jewish center with enough space for its expansion plans in lieu of a controversial proposal to build a new place of worship on the site of the current building, a small one-family home at 26-06 213th St., Weprin said.Though the fate of ANIBIC was unknown and calls to the agency were not returned, there is another ANIBIC site in College Point, Weprin said.The Chabad had filed applications in 2001 for variances to construct a new school and facility at its site. The original plans filed with the city showed schematics for a kitchen, classrooms, offices and a sanctuary to accommodate 140 people, the TimesLedger reported in 2002. Despite enormous community outcry, the city's Board of Standards of Appeals granted the center the necessary variances.The East Bayside Homeowners Association, led by Frank Skala, filed a lawsuit in 2002 to stop the proposed expansion, but the suit was dismissed in State Supreme Court in 2003 due to failure to name the Chabad in the complaint.But Skala said the City Council allocation raised the possibility that community concerns about an oversized building on 26th Avenue, zoned for single-family homes, could be resolved."If they do this, they won't need to build a big building to start with," Skala said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Four years ago (Blesofsky) said if they could get the ANIBIC building, they wouldn't need to expand. If he has that for a school, then (the ANIBIC building) is set up where you can use it as a school." Skala noted that 26th Avenue even has bus curb cuts, thus addressing his concern over buses tying up traffic in the area."With this building, we really have room for whatever we need," Blesofsky said. He said that construction would not be ruled out. "We still have the right to build, though now we don't have to build that large (of a building)."Weprin said that due to city policy, the $1.25 million allocation is only a fraction of the estimated $4.5 million cost of buying and renovating the ANIBIC building, with the remainder to be raised through private donors. He added that because the religious organization is receiving public funding the new school will have to be made available for use by other religious and community groups.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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