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Yeshiva expansion and park repairs top concerns at CB5 meeting

By Gabriel Rom

A planned yeshiva expansion in Glendale met fierce resistance at this past week’s Community Board 5 meeting, with residents citing various logistical complaints, while also recognizing that the Yeshiva, which has operated since 2006, has been an exemplary neighbor.

The Yeshiva Gedolah Seminary has applied for a Board of Standards and Appeals zoning variance in order to expand the seminary, located at 74-10 88th St., adding 177 dormitory rooms and 28 classrooms. The expansion met opposition from many members of the community board who were skeptical about the project’s engineering and logistical feasibility, as well as the precedent it may set for future projects.

“Over the last five years, I haven’t heard a whole lot of complaints about what goes on in there,” said Brian Dooley, the president of the Glendale Property Owners Association. “However, don’t let anyone tell you there’s not a nonconforming use there. The concerns others have raised are legitimate.”

Three primary concerns with the yeshiva are that there were no dormitories included in the school’s original 2006 building plans; the structure is located in an M1-1 light manufacturing zone, not a residential district; and the building’s current standing as a Use Group 9 trade school — which does not allow for dormitories — instead of a Use Group 3 religious school, which it is applying to the BSA to become.

According to Jay Goldstein, the yeshiva’s legal representative, an additional three floors of dormitory space would mean fewer students would have to be transported across the Queens-Brooklyn border each day, resulting in the number of buses running being reduced by about half.

“When this building was first built, the focus of the students in the school was on the business end of the rabbinate,” Goldstein said. “Over the last number of years, there’s been an additional demand and additional interest for the spiritual aspect of the rabbinate. The spiritual aspect of the rabbinate necessitated and really lends itself, to a Use Group 3.”

Glendale resident Dawn Scala referred back to the initial certificate of occupancy for the building, asking: “How was that certificate of occupancy approved? Was it approved erroneously or was it approved with a blatant disregard for the law?”

Concluding the meeting, Rabbi David Niederman, executive director and president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg Inc., asked for a degree of understanding and good-faith.

“We don’t have a stamp of approval,” he said. “We are at this point good neighbors, and I ask that you please give us a chance to sit down with a committee of people you select, and try to work out the issues.”

After the hearing, CB 5 decided the Land Use Committee would hold a tour of the yeshiva this week.

Shifting to the other main issue, residents and members of CB 5 said the city should set aside money for park improvements in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

Several parks within CB 5, including Rosemary’s Playground in Ridgewood, Frank Principe Park in Maspeth and Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village are either in need of repairs or are due to receive repairs. The community board wants to make sure that these repair projects be included in the city’s fiscal year 2017 capital budget.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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