By Sadef Ali Kully
Community Board 13 members voted Monday night at Antun’s Catering Hall against variances needed for the development of a four-story Jewish learning institution in Cambria Heights.
The proposed learning institution, where Jewish men come to study their religion in depth, calls for three adjacent homes to be demolished between 224-12 and 224-20 Francis Lewis Blvd. in a residential neighborhood.
The proposed site is down the street from the Ohel Chabad Lubavitch center bordering Montefiore Cemetery, where the Chabad Lubavitch holy leader Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, who died in 1994, is buried. The Rebbe’s gravesite draws thousands of visitors from across the world on special and holy occasions.
According to the application, a religious nonprofit, Keren Puelos, that runs an education program known as Shluchim Office wants to build the institution.
Even though Keren Puelos is a Chabad Lubavitch nonprofit, the Ohel center’s Rabbi Abba Rebson said the center had no connection to it.
This is the second attempt by the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Cambria Heights to expand its properties. In 2011, then Community Board 13 members and then-Borough President Helen Marshall had voted against it.
Sheldon Lobel, the attorney representing Keren Puelos, once again appealed to the board members and residents to vote in favor of the institution because of its religious importance to the Chabad-Lubavitch community.
“My client wants to build a school in order to meet the needs of the community,” Lobel said. “The use of the site as requested is permitted under zoning mandates of this state for religious institutions.”
The height of the development or any feature that would change the character of the neighborhood would need approval from the Community Board.
But those were not the reasons for voting against it, Cambria Heights residents.
They contended Ohel center visitors have not been respectful of their neighborhood.
They complained about garbage being disposed on their lawns, parked cars blocking their driveways and complete disregard by their neighbors.
“We have been dealing with this for years,” Cambria Heights Civic Association President Steven Taylor said.
State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis), Council members Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Community Board 13 sent letters in support of the vote against the approval for the proposed site.
Comrie told residents at the meeting the matter would go to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, an independent board to grant “relief” from the zoning code on regulation of land use, development and construction.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull