As the leadership of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center and the on-site caterer accused of hosting parties behind the temple’s back battle in a courtroom, residents who are fed up with the often-wild parties at the Howard Beach house of worship have taken their concerns directly to the area’s top cop.
A handful of residents attended the Nov. 13 meeting of the 106th Precinct Community Council to complain directly to the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, about the parties held in the center’s catering hall on Saturday nights.
The parties go back over a year and pre-date Hurricane Sandy, which badly damaged the synagogue and its adjacent school building. Since the storm, the temple has also had financial troubles.
The most recent parties held there were on Oct. 19 and Nov. 6, according to a number of witnesses and residents. During the Oct. 19 party, cars — some with New Jersey and Florida license plates — were spotted parked under the Belt Parkway overpass on 84th Street adjacent to the synagogue after midnight.
“We have a lot of elderly people on the block, most of the block is elderly, and one of our neighbors is very fearful of what goes on across the street, she is afraid to go out,” said an 85th Street resident at the meeting. “I think it is very rude of these people to be doing this. One o’clock should be their limit.”
The resident added that the music played at the party is loud and distracting and goes on well into the night.
“We’re not talking nice wedding music, we’re talking heavy-duty, really pumping music,” she said. “It’s very disturbing for all of us on the block to have to deal with that, we never dealt with that in all the years that we’ve been living there, and I’m talking 30 years.”
Another resident, who only gave his first name, Jeff, said partygoers tend to leave litter behind.
“There are beer bottles and liquor bottles on people’s lawns,” he said.
Another resident, who did not want to be identified, said later that she was a neighbor of Jeff’s and had seen people leaving parties drunk and arguments breaking out in the street as late as 3 a.m. One woman was seen allegedly urinating on someone’s lawn.
“Nothing seems to get done,” she said. “It just keeps happening every few Saturdays. What’s it going to take?”
Gary Rosen, a lawyer for the synagogue, said he has been trying to line up witnesses to the parties to seek an action to evict the caterer, Crown Royale, from the center and void its contract with the synagogue.
“I don’t have any witnesses so I don’t have proof,” Rosen said. “We are trying to locate the people who are holding the parties and find witnesses who have seen the parties take place.”
Rosen said in September that the caterer had vowed to stop holding the parties and any future parties could be grounds for immediate eviction.
In the meantime, the case continues to move its way through the courts with hearings scheduled on Dec. 9 and 10, Rosen said. Rockwood Park is seeking $1 million and other damages from the caterer.
An employee of the caterer, who declined to be identified, said Crown Royale would argue in court that the synagogue knew about the parties all along.
Some of the earlier parties were advertised on Facebook with fliers in both English and Spanish promoting Latin-themed events with liquor, even though the temple does not have a liquor license. Some of the fliers advertised the venue as Rockwood Center or Rockwood Park Center, omitting the fact it is a house of worship.