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The changing face of Midwood

Avenue N residents fight oversized synagogue

Brooklyn Daily

A plan to build a massive synagogue on Avenue N is drawing the ire of its neighbors, who fear that the new house of worship will overburden their bucolic, tree-lined block — and possibly put their homes in danger.

Representatives from congregation Kahal Bnei Avrohom Yaakov is asking Community Board 14 to ignore Midwood’s zoning limitations and allow them to build a house of worship at E. 27th Street that will be three times larger than most of the homes on the avenue, which is filled with detached, single family homes.

Congregation members say the building needs to be big enough to accommodate the roughly 90 families attending services.

Yet neighbors say the new synagogue will be too large for a quiet residential street.

“I’m in full support of synagogues and churches,” said Cory Look, who lives one house away from the proposed synagogue. “But I’m really concerned about what is being proposed.”

Synagogue representatives, who are currently leasing a building on East 18th Street, also want to build on the property’s front yard and do away with the more than 20 parking spaces the city requires they provide.

Community Board 14 is scheduled to vote on the variance changes tonight.

Look said if the synagogue gets rid of its front yard — a required setback, according to city zoning rules — then the homes next to it will be obscured and could be targeted by burglars.

“There’s a reason setback regulations in residential neighborhoods are in place,” he said. “It’s not just aesthetic, it’s an issue with safety.”

Synagogue representatives say their zoning modifications are consistent with what has been granted to other shuls in Midwood.

“There is a lot of precedent in New York courts which give synagogues, churches, and mosques a lot of consideration because of their importance to the community,” said Richard Lobel, a lawyer working with Kahal Bnei Avrohom Yaakov, who claimed that there are several synagogues that are the same size as the one his client is proposing. “What we’re asking for is consistent with what’s been asked for before.”

Synagogue members say they chose Avenue N and E. 27th Street because many members live nearby and will walk to shul on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays.

But residents contend the shul’s many weekly events will draw a car-driving crowd that will have nowhere to park.

Synagogue members said the expansion was integral to the health of the congregation.

“The community needs a place for families to get together,” said congregation member David Sussman.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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