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Bring on the synagogue - Board backs New York Avenue home conversion

With a sardine-packed room of congregants looking on, Community Board 18 last week gave its unanimous approval to the arrival of a synagogue on New York Avenue. The board’s recommendation will be sent to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), the city panel with official say on Congregation Tiferes Torna Eliezer’s request to convert 1912 New York Avenue into a house of worship. If the project is approved, congregants won’t have far to travel; the current synagogue is located at 1880 New York Avenue. While a house of worship is allowed in a residential area with no special approvals needed, the size of this particular building is not, mandating a public hearing and the approval of the BSA in order to proceed, according to Eric Palatnik, the synagogue’s attorney. According to city records, Congregation Tiferes Torna Eliezer purchased the home late last year for $750,000. Plans were initially filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB) last August call for the enlargement of the building at the rear and an addition of a third floor, making the new building’s height rise to just over 36 feet. The plans were rejected by the DOB in September, according to city records. “We’re hoping to maintain the existing footprint of the home—just enlarging it,” Palatnik said at the board’s Feb. 20 meeting held inside the community room in Kings Plaza. No parking is planned. “Everyone you see here lives within a mile and a half [of the building],” Palatnik said. “Most people will be walking.” Congregants would use the main floor and the basement, while a rabbi’s quarters is planned for the second and third floor, Palatnik said. Robert Nadel, the president of the Fraser Civic Association, noted that when the roof is taken into account, the building would actually stand some 40 feet tall. “That’s ten feet higher than the existing structures,” he said. Palatnik said the Lewis Garfinkel, the project’s architect, “would look at ways to mitigate that.” Any concern for neighborhood aesthetic seemed to have been trumped by the large turnout of synagogue members, coupled with the fact that no block neighbors objected. Dorothy Turano, the district manager of the community board, noted that her office has so far received no complaints about the project. Board 18 member Thomas Hernandez, also a member of the Fraser Civic, said that his group has not officially taken a position on the proposal. “We look forward to working with them to make this a successful project,” he said. The community board’s recommendation is only advisory in nature. A date has not yet been scheduled at the BSA. The board’s vote drew hearty applause from the large crowd, which then quickly dispersed into the cold night.

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