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It looks like a supermarket, but it really is a preschool — even if the city doesn’t see it that way.
Yeshiva Ketanah of Torah Vodaath’s preschool center has been operating on Quentin Road between East 31st and 32nd Streets since 2008 — despite the fact that the city has twice rejected its application to open.
“The certificate of occupancy doesn’t allow operation of a school,” said Department of Buildings spokeswoman Carly Sullivan. “There was an application filed in January 2009 to convert the first floor to a school. That application was disapproved. It was last reviewed in September 2009 and it still remains disapproved.”
But school leaders say they haven’t done anything wrong.
“The certificate of occupancy can sometimes take years until you get it,” said Rabbi Isaac Gottdiener, the yeshiva’s executive director. “So what do you do? You wait? There are many places and schools that operate as long as the safety requirements are met.”
The building is zoned for a store, and it still looks like one. The blue and red awning and large signage for the building’s previous tenant, Kolbo Kosher Marketplace, still hangs — while a vinyl sign proclaiming the school’s existence can’t come close to covering it up
The city says a school would be permitted at the site with the proper certificate of occupancy, but it can’t give one out until the school clears ip the 26 objections the has to the school’s application — including a failure to enclose the cellar stairs or provide details about the layout of the building’s interior, Sullivan said.
Gottdiener said that the yeshiva has addressed the objections, but the school couldn’t submit a new certificate of occupancy until it sorted out other paperwork, namely assuring that emergency exits are in place in both sections of the building.
Residents say the school should get it’s act together.
“If they don’t have a certificate of occupancy for a school, then I think somebody should call 311 or the Department of Buildings to have an inspector come down and verify this,” said Community Board 18 Chair Saul Needle.
But Gottdiener contends that his supermarket yeshiva, with opaque windows, is a boon to the community.
“A school like ours provides a valuable service to the community,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place.”
Yeshiva Ketanah of Torah Vodaath has two other locations — 425 and 452 East Ninth Street — offering preschool to high school grades.
— with Andy Campbell
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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