26th Ave. to get new synagogue

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Joining the rising number of houses of worship under construction or proposed in residential areas in northeast Queens, a Bayside synagogue has filed plans with the city to build a three-story, 9,000-square-foot facility at 213th Street and 26th Avenue.

The area on the south side of 26th Avenue, directly across from the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, is dominated by one-family homes and is on the edge of a large residential area. Only one building, the two-story offices of the Association for Neurologically and Brain Injured Children, is non-residential.

Plans show the proposed 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, according to the plans, the builder is not required to provide parking for the new house of worship.

Community Board 11, which covers the area, was slated to hold a public hearing on the synagogue at its Oct. 1 meeting at MS 158 in Bayside.

The Chabad House of Northeast Queens obtained the one-family home at the corner of 213th Street and 26th Avenue several years ago and has been operating out of the building ever since. The organization also operates a day care center in a home a few blocks away. To build the new synagogue, the one-family home will be demolished, plans show.

The project comes to light just as residents in Bay Terrace and Bayside have become increasingly wary of extra traffic on the local streets surrounding the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, which has been preparing to expand.

In neighboring Little Neck, residents have been fighting the construction of a three-story, 20,000-square-foot Korean church on 249th Street for several months. The Little Neck facility would include roughly 30 parking spots, and the occupancy of the building was expected to be about 1,200 people.

Developers of churches, synagogues and other community facilities — including hospitals, community centers and schools — are permitted by the city’s zoning laws to build in residential areas without holding public hearings or meetings on the projects.

This “as-of-right” law has been a source of controversy throughout Queens as the zoning regulation often pits administrators of houses of worship looking to build new facilities against the residential communities they seek to enter.

The Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella group representing a number of civic groups in the area, has taken a strong stance against as-of-right zoning and what it believes is a need to change the city’s zoning resolution.

While most as-of-right zoning projects do not require public hearings before building in residential areas, planners of the synagogue — to be officially named the Yankel Rosenbaum Center at 26-06 213th St. — have been forced to hold a public hearing because the proposed structure is not in compliance with several aspects of the area’s residential zoning.

In an Aug. 17 letter to Community Board 11 in Little Neck, lawyers for the Chabad House of Northeast Queens said the zoning requirements “would prevent Chabad from constructing a building that will provide adequate space for the modest program of activities proposed.”

According to a glossy, 14-page brochure describing the new synagogue, the Yankel Rosenbaum Center is to provide a number of services, including a preschool, a community Hebrew school and teen center, mikvahs (ritual baths), an Adult Education Institute and Library, a parenting center and full service synagogue. Weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs would also be held at the center.

The Chabad House lawyers, Rothkrug & Rothkrug of Great Neck, L.I., also said in paperwork filed with Community Board 11 that the planned building would not change the surrounding community.

The proposed building “will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which it is located . . . and will not be detrimental to the public welfare,” the lawyers wrote.

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

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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