Board 11 knocks plans for Bay Terrace temple

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A lawyer for a Bayside synagogue that wants to build a new, three-story house of worship in place of a one-story home across from the Bay Terrace Shopping Center said the congregation has been planning the changes ever since it bought the lot two years ago.

Adam Rothkrug said the Chabad House of Northeast Queens, which purchased the one-family home at the corner of 26th Avenue and 213th Street in 1999, had sought out the property with the large synagogue already in mind.

“The current structure does not meet our needs,” Rothkrug told a Community Board 11 zoning committee meeting in its Little Neck office Monday night. “It was a stop-gap facility until we could apply” with the city to build the new house of worship, he said.

The committee voted 7-1 to defeat the variance, with several members urging the lawyer and Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky to come back with a redesigned, smaller building. The synagogue is to be officially named the Yankel Rosenbaum Center at 26-06 213th St.

Plans filed with the city 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, based on the plans, the builder is not required to provide parking for the new 9,000-square-foot house of worship.

The proposed synagogue needs at least five variances from the city, because if the new synagogue were to be built as now planned, it would exceed height restrictions, take up too much land on its plot and would not be set back far enough from the sidewalk on 26th Avenue for the current zoning.

In voting to disapprove the synagogue’s plans, committee member Melvyn Meer said he had been reviewing the Chabad House files at the city Building Department since August.

“Nothing beats the chutzpah of these people,” he said. “To build what would be legal, to build what would be in harmony with the community would be more than these folks are willing to spend.”

Sidney Abelson, the only committee member who wanted to approve the new synagogue, said neighbors would not be bothered by the height of the building because of surrounding trees, and parking would not be an issue because the congregants cannot drive to services during the sabbath because their Orthodox faith forbids it.

“I don’t think these people want to circumvent the law,” he said.

The project came before CB 11 just as residents in Bay Terrace and Bayside have been fighting extra traffic on the local streets surrounding the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, which has been preparing to expand.

In separate meetings on the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, the management of the retail center has repeatedly said it would restrict the large parking lot to shoppers and tow away illegal parkers.

When asked where congregants of the new synagogue would park while dropping off children for pre-school during the week, Rothkrug initially said they could use either onstreet parking or the Bay Terrace Shopping Center lot. Later in the meeting Rothkrug contradicted himself and said he was aware of the parking restrictions at the retail center. The lawyer said most of the activity would be concentrated on 26th Avenue.

Blesofsky said the Chabad House congregation was small, with an average of 40 people attending regular services. Close to 200 people visit the synagogue during the Jewish holidays, he said. Blesofsky also said a second house owned by the current synagogue a few blocks away from the 26th Avenue facility would not be torn down or reconstructed.

The area on the south side of 26th Avenue directly across from the retail center is dominated by one-family homes and is on the edge of a large residential area.

According to a glossy, 14-page brochure describing the new synagogue, the Yankel Rosenbaum Center will provide a number of services. A pre-school, a community Hebrew school and teen center, mikvahs, or ritual baths, an Adult Education Institute & Library, a parenting center and full service synagogue were all detailed at length in the brochure.

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

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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