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Green light for Magen David - Controversial yeshiva gets the okay to expand into new building

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The latest expansion of Magen David Yeshiva may proceed, a city panel recently ruled. Early this month, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) approved the granting of a special permit to the school, allowing the operation of a pre-school and kindergarten at a vacant two-story office building that currently occupies the site, 2160-2170 McDonald Avenue. A special permit is required because the property sits within an area zoned for manufacturing use. Despite opponents’ concerns over parking and traffic, the BSA voted unanimously to approve. In its decision, the BSA stated that “movement of traffic through the street on which the school is located can be controlled so as [to] protect children going to and from the school.” “The board made the proper decision according to the law,” said Magen David attorney Howard Hornstein. There will be no new construction at the site, Hornstein noted. He said critics’ objections “did not go with what the BSA was required to look at under the law.” The new school will accommodate roughly 410 pre-school and kindergarten students. According to BSA documents, Magen David officials insisted that they looked for other sites, but found none feasible. Magen David Yeshiva is located just north of the site in question, at 2106-2130 McDonald Avenue. The construction of that school sparked a hew and cry from local residents, who said the school virtually commandeered their entire block. The 1,600-student yeshiva stands three stories on the Lake Street side and seven stories on McDonald Avenue. Back in September, Community Board 11, whose vote is simply advisory, recommended the approval of the special permit. “Because there was no new construction, or demolition, the board didn’t see this as a real problem,” said Howard Feuer, the board’s district manager. He said the board is committed to continued meetings with Magen David officials to resolve any issues related to increased traffic—or any problem. “There will always be people opposed to any change,” he continued. “The people that run Magen David…the last thing they want is to be bad neighbors, and I think they have demonstrated that on a couple of occasions—and they will continue.” Magen David scaled down the size of its yeshiva, and agreed to conduct most school business from the McDonald Avenue side of the property, as opposed to the less commercial Lake Street side. Bill Guarinello, the community board’s chair, said the “good news” is that the school and its neighbors seem to be committed to “trying to make it work.” “Living near a school, it is always going be somewhat disruptive during certain times of the day,” he said. “Go on any block that has a school anywhere in the five boroughs and you will see the same disruptions.” “The school has been making an effort…and we will be keeping watch,” Guarinello vowed.

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