A city panel earlier this month approved a briefly controversial variance request by a local synagogue, giving its unanimous blessing to the house of worship’s expansion plans.
On Oct. 6 the Board of Standards and Appeals voted 5-0 in favor ofKollel B’nai Torah’s request to enclose a portion of 1323 East 32nd Street, and enlarging the former residential home to serve a growing congregation.
Last May, Community Board 18 rejected the synagogue’s proposal, deciding the plan would be out of character with the residential neighborhood, adding traffic and congestion.
The first phase of the project was the renovation of the building, which did not require a special public review. The synagogue does not own the property, although it did at one time offer to buy it.It has entered a long term lease with property owner East 17th Street Properties Inc., an entity of Beth-Israel Hospital. “They built a structure the’s a horror,” said Board 18 District manager Dorothy Turano. “It’s ugly and not in keeping with neighborhood.”
A neighbor of the synagogue previously told Board 18 that the synagogue, which had been renovating the property, damaged her backyard garden doing that work. But the neighbor, Roberta Weiss, said this week that she no longer is aggravated with the house of worship, after it worked to help restore her damaged patio area. “For all intents and purposes, I got my garden back,” she said. Still, she said, she’s hopeful that the work gets done quickly so that her shared driveway is no longer used by an entire congregation. “I am hoping to alleviate some of the [foot] traffic in my alleyway,” she said. I’m accustomed to sharing it with another family but not a congregation.”
Congregation member and area resident Joshua Newman called the BSA’s vote “a victory.” He said the Orthodox synagogue, currently located at 2748 Nostrand Avenue, will now be bidding out the work and determining the cost of the project. “The approval was the first step,” he said.
Among the conditions of the BSA’s approval was that the enlarged building should not exceed a total height of 32 feet, and that the use will be restricted to a house of worship and rabbi’s residence.