Grass-roots opposition to the dramatic expansion of a Nostrand Avenue synagogue remains sharp, despite a recent vote by Community Board 18 to recommend that the Board of Standards and Appeals approve the Jewish center’s super-sized plans.
“We’re going to continue to attend Marine Park Civic Association meetings, and once we have a BSA meeting date, we’re going to do our best to attend,” said Marine Parkway resident Letizia Intravaia, who lives behind the growing synagogue. “We’re hoping the synagogue doesn’t follow through, or that they try to make a compromise.”
Locals continue to compile signatures from Marine Park residents who say will be impacted by the expansion of the facility — many of whom weren’t even aware of the synagogue’s plans, which involve adding three additional floors to expand its space by nearly 23,000 square feet.
“We are collecting signatures opposing the facility, especially in the close vicinity, because we’re going to suffer the most,” said Marine Parkway resident Merina Avsjukevich. “The community board’s decision was humiliating, and made by people who just don’t care.”
Community Board 18 gave the Nostrand Avenue synagogue and education center overwhelming support for its plans on March 20, despite impassioned pleas from nearby residents and a recommendation from the Marine Park Civic Association to oppose the synagogue’s expansion.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Marine Parkway resident Jose Salce, who lives directly behind the expanding religious center. “Since we got there, it looked like everybody had already made up their mind.”
The synagogue, Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel, sits between Madison Place and Marine Parkway and is currently seeking variances through the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The new third and fourth floors will offer classroom space for roughly 80 students attending grades nine through 12, and the fifth floor will be a gym and recreation space.
Proponents argue that the synagogue is currently bursting at the seams, and that Nostrand Avenue is already strewn with businesses and large apartment buildings, including one directly across the street that, at seven stories, would still dwarf the religious center’s planned expansion.
“This facility happens to be on Nostrand Avenue, where there’s several six or seven story apartment buildings,” said Judah Lieberman, who has a son attending ninth-grade classes at another nearby building affiliated with the synagogue. “Given the large buildings on the other side of the street, I don’t think it’s going to have a negative impact on Marine Park.”
Nearby residents, however, bemoaned the five-story synagogue as a “monstrosity.”
“The plan of an expansion of a 5,000-square-foot building to 27,000 square feet is daunting. When new construction of ‘monstrosity’ size takes place, as some have referred to it, it will affect existing structures around it,” read a letter to CB18 by Marine Parkway residents Jose and Letizia Salce.
The complaints are myriad, concerning everything from parking and traffic, to air conditioners that will pollute the air and the synagogue’s proposed towering height, which opponents say will blot out the sun.
“It would block the sun, I wouldn’t have privacy. I couldn’t go in my backyard and be free to open my doors, and that’s one of the reasons we bought this house, because we feel free there,” said Avsjukevich, who lives behind the synagogue on Marine Parkway.
Lieberman admits that the synagogue’s expansion will affect people living in the direct vicinity, but he criticized people who live in other parts of the neighborhood coming to protest its plans, likening them to rabble-rousers.
“I think there are people who are concerned about Marine Park as a neighborhood, but who are not in close enough proximity to be impacted by it,” he said. “Someone on Kimball Street shouldn’t be concerned about parking on Nostrand Avenue. It’s good to be concerned about your neighborhood, but not when it comes to rabble-rousing about something that needs to expand.”
“To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs,” Lieberman added, “and it’s just unfortunate when you’re the egg.”
But Avsjukevich says just the opposite, saying the whole neighborhood will be affected by the so-called “monstrosity.”
“It was presented like only a handful of people would suffer from it, which is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard,” she said. “It’s not just two families that will be affected, the whole neighborhood will be affected.”
The Board of Standards and Appeals won’t be making its decision anytime soon and no hearings on the matter have yet been scheduled — Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel attorney Jordan Most doesn’t expect a sit down with the Board to be set until after May 1.Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn