Thumbs Down For Bayswater Yeshiva
Residents of Bayswater showed up en masse at Tuesday night’s Community Board 14 meeting to protest a proposal to grant several variances in order for an Orthodox group to build a three-story yeshiva on Bay 25 Street, spurring the board to vote overwhelmingly to turn down the variances.
The board voted 31 to 3, with one abstention, to deny the developer’s request for its support for four variances to build the yeshiva, which would be located at 12-13 Bay 25 Street.
“We are requesting a floor area waver, we are requesting the addition of a dormitory and we are requesting a waiver of the side yard setback,” said Attorney Lyra Altman, of the law firm of Frederick A. Becker, which represented the owners, USA Outreach Corporation. She added that they were also requesting a waiver of the parking regulations. The site is now zoned R-2, which allows only for one and two family homes.
The required number of parking spaces for such a facility, according to city regulations is 29. The builders planned for 25 parking spaces instead of the 13 that were previously proposed when the plan was first drawn, the developers said. “The dormitory is allowed by special permit,” said Altman. Shawny Staple, who lives next door to the proposed facility, explained her family’s opposition to the dormitory (but not to the yeshiva) – which she called a “24-hour, 365-day facility.”
“Up to 60 boys and young men will be living … loitering on a property that is closely surrounded on three sides by one and two story homes,” said Staple. “The noise level, lighting and activity will have an [adverse] effect on our home life and those of our neighbors,” said Staple.
Board member and Bayswater resident Harvey Rudnick called the proposed building a “campus” and in an exchange with Altman told her that the building would change the character of the community. “We respectfully disagree,” said Altman. “We would not be changing the character of the neighborhood.” Rudnick replied, “You and I have a big difference of what a building looks like.” Board member Steve Cooper asked Altman if she was aware that the builders were going against the will of the community, which in 2006 worked to downzone Bayswater. “This is contemptuous … making this attempt,” said Cooper. Altman replied, “We are aware. That is why we are here … To request your support.” More than 50 residents signed up to speak. Resident Edward Raskin, a lawyer who has been involved in zoning regulations since 1971, lives with his wife on the same block as the proposed site. “From a municipal attorney’s point of view they have not presented a justification for the floor space …,” said Raskin. “You need to see the floor plan. You need to understand how each space is proposed to be used. Whether it’s necessary. Whether it’s not necessary. …What else could they use that space for?”
Harvey Gluck’s comments brought huge applause. “As a retired educator, I’m all for school. I’m opposed to where it is being located,” said Gluck. “You’re ramming this in on people who had no idea it was going to happen. …The area from [Beach] 28 Street to [Beach] 54 Street between the subway and the ocean is empty. Why isn’t it put there?”
Enid Glabman, the president of the Bayswater Civic Association, spoke to The Wave before the meeting.
“We have nothing to say about the yeshiva, … we are opposed to the variances to make such a large structure,” said Glabman.
Glabman said that traffic is already “unbearable.” She added that the street in question is so narrow that there is currently parking on only one side of the street. “It does not [fit] the character of the neighborhood,” said Glabman.
She added, “They also never communicated with us. We heard about it in a roundabout way.”
Joe Hersh said, “We have been railroaded to go against this. …I say to you, you would find hundreds and hundreds in Bayswater in favor of it. There’s a number of aspects not being brought out.” A petition with approximately 96 names on it in support of the project, was presented to the board by the applicant. Owners of the property, USA Outreach Corp., filed an application with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals on April 13 for a variance to be allowed to build a three-story yeshiva (Yeshiva Zichron Aryeh) with planning for dormitories, floor area side setback and parking, all contrary to current regulations. The lot is located in a R1-2 zoning district which allows for low density one family homes. Religious institutions are as-of-right in R1 through R10 districts. The Board of Standards and Appeals is scheduled to meet again to discuss the issue on October 25.