After a summer of quiet, neighbors of a Howard Beach synagogue where raucous parties were taking place say the problem is back and a lawyer for the temple says it has filed suit against the caterer he argues has been hosting the parties behind the center’s back.
Last spring, residents of the blocks surrounding the Rockwood Park Jewish Center at 157th Avenue and 84th Street complained that the center often hosts wild parties on Saturday nights that spill out onto the quiet residential streets sometimes as late as 3 or 4 a.m. At least half a dozen parties occurred in 2012 and early 2013, according to residents who live near the center.
The problem resurfaced again on Saturday, when some of the same neighbors said another party featuring Latin music took place at the center’s catering hall and went on well into the night, spilling out into the community, affecting residents on surrounding blocks.
The party took place only two days after the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and a week before the solemn holy day of Yom Kippur.
A man who answered the telephone at the caterer’s number declined to give his name but said the allegations are false.
“There was no party here on Saturday,” he said.
But neighbors, all of whom declined to have their names published, say otherwise.
“I saw people loading musical equipment into the center, from the back parking lot,” said one resident. “And you could hear the music, it went on until almost four o’clock in the morning.”
She said it was the first party she has seen at the facility since the spring.
Another resident who lives around the block from the center said patrons took up every parking space for several blocks including the parking lot for St. Helen Church, which is across the street from the Jewish Center. Two neighbors said they saw a woman leave the party and urinate on a front lawn on 85th Street.
Unlike past parties, Saturday’s event was not widely promoted. In the past, the hosts would post promotional materials on Facebook, some of which advertised the venue as “Rockwood Center,” not identifying it as a house of worship.
The synagogue said it was not aware of the parties and pointed the finger at the caterer, accusing them of using the space without their knowledge.
In May, Gary Rosen, the synagogue’s lawyer, said the center will sue the caterer, Crown Royale, to have it evicted from the premises. Rosen filed the suit on Aug. 27 in state Supreme Court accusing Crown Royale of breach of contract for having at least eight Latin-themed parties without the Jewish Center’s leadership knowing about it and not paying license fees as agreed to in the contract they signed with Rockwood Park.
Crown Royale has had a contract with the Rockwood Park Jewish Center since January 2005.
The suit also accuses the caterer’s owners, Joshua and Myron Gurell, of fraud for allowing the parties to go on without the center’s consent or knowledge.
Rosen said news of Saturday’s party would allow him to go to a judge and seek to move against the caterers.
“It was news to us that there was a party on Saturday,” Rosen said. “If it’s true, that gives us cause.”
He explained that he could take neighbors’ complaints and any news confirming the party occurred on Saturday and bring it before a judge to get an injunction against Crown Royale to have the company held in contempt of court if it holds another party without the synagogue knowing.
According to Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton, Crown Royale has not had a liquor license since at least 2007. Some of the advertisements for the parties earlier this year said liquor would be served. Braton acknowledged Monday that the board has received complaints stemming from Saturday’s party. A police source also said the precinct had received complaints.
One neighbor said she doesn’t care what happens inside the building, but that the center needed to be more respectful and understanding of their neighbors.
“I have nothing against the people who come to these parties or what they do,” she said. “But don’t let it affect the quality of life in this neighborhood. We’re afraid to go out when the parties are happening.”