CB5 rejects Yeshiva expansion application

By Gabriel Rom

Community Board 5 will recommend that the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals deny an application from the United Talmudical Seminary in Glendale for a zoning variance to expand its building.

The decision was announced Oct. 14 during CB5’s monthly community board meeting at Christ the King High School in Middle Village.

After hearing testimony from the public and the yeshiva’s lawyer at September’s meeting, the board’s Land Use Committee met to hear the proposal on the need for the school’s expansion from 360 dormitory beds to 710 beds and the addition of a four-story building on the site at 74-10 88th St.

Public opposition to the expansion has focused on the yeshiva’s original 2006 certificate of occupancy, the fact that 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. The Use Group 9 category does not allow for dormitories, so it is applying to the BSA to become a Use Group 3 religious school.

But Walter Sanchez, who is chairman of CB5’s Land Use Committee, said the scale of the expansion, not the controversial 2006 certificate of occupation, was the primary reason behind his objection to the variance.

“After taking a tour of the facility the committee really felt that it was out of scale with what it is in Glendale,” Sanchez said. “We felt it was a good 20 feet higher than the next nearest building, which when you’re going for a variance is just too much. The height of the building was a lot higher than the buildings around it. That was our main point. It’s basically scale. The role of the CB is to look at the character of the community.

Vincent Arcuri, CB5’s chairman voted for the variance and argued that disagreement stemmed from different perceptions of just what the yeshiva would look like. Arcuri said that the proposed expansion would, in theory, rise about 40 feet above 88th Street, while residential zoning in the area is 35 feet.

“But due but to the fact that the ground beneath the yeshiva slopes downward there would effectively be no difference between the yeshiva’s height and the zoning requirements.” Arcuri also mentioned that the area where the yeshiva is located is heavily industrial.

There are currently a number of trailers on the premises while students learn in cramped basement classrooms and Sanchez agreed that there may be a citywide need for the expansion of yeshiva schooling.

“Most of the stuff they want makes sense,” Sanchez said, “and their point is that there is a programmatic need for this for their community and our response is, ‘Is there really a programmatic need for the community of Glendale? Which community is being served by this?’ I’m really not sure about that kind of argument.”

One fact that Arcuri and Sanchez agree on is that the yeshiva has been an exemplary and respectful neighbor.

The board’s recommendation will be sent to the borough president’s office before a recommendation is made to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has the final decision.

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

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