The 392 beds normally occupied by students attending the United Talmudical Seminary at 74-10 88 St. in Glendale should be empty this week after the Department of Buildings took action against the school for illegally providing them in the first place.
After a recent city inspection of the site discovered various safety hazards such as disabled sprinklers and obstructed exits, the DOB originally placed a full vacate order on the property on Friday before reverting it to a partial vacate order, allowing for the school’s classrooms and cafeteria to be used.
“We discovered the presence of 392 beds on site with little or no required life-safety protections, including sprinkler systems that had been disabled or covered over, obstructed building exits and significant alterations to the building that had been performed without permits,” DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler said in a statement issued Monday. “To protect the property’s occupants, the department took immediate action to vacate the premises last week.”
The root of the school’s issues — brought up by area residents over the summer during discussions of a possible increase in dorm space at the site — stems from the lack of dorm units in the school’s original 2006 building plans, the fact that the structure is located in an M1-1 light manufacturing zone, not a residential district, and the building’s standing as a Use Group 9 trade school, which does not allow for dormitories.
At Community Board 5’s September meeting, Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi and others openly wondered whether the DOB erroneously approved the school’s certificate of occupancy or not, something the agency confirmed on Monday.
“We audited the certificate of occupancy for the property issued in 2008 and found that it was approved in error,” Chandler said. “Auditors found the inclusion of the term ‘dorm’ on the certificate of occupancy was not supported by the submitted plans for the property.”
Emails with questions about the partial vacate order sent to Abraham Markowitz, the yeshiva’s community liaison, were not answered by press time on Wednesday.
The DOB added that the school’s dorms will not be legally inhabitable until all safety and occupancy issues are corrected.
“The order will remain in place until the hazardous conditions, and the use of the building contrary to the certificate of occupancy among other violations, are remediated by the property owner,” Chandler said.
In a post on the Glendale Civic Association’s Facebook page last Saturday, Masi applauded the DOB’s actions, saying it potentially saved the lives of hundreds of students.
“With these types of violations, we need to be very grateful that nothing serious has ever happened with all those adolescents in the building,” Masi wrote. “Safety first. Let’s hope that they will take these violations seriously, and protect their students by maintaining the correct standards and obeying the law.”
The school opened in 2006 and serves 1,050 students from 6:15 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fifteen buses transport a majority of the pupils, who range in age from 16 to 22, to and from Williamsburg each school day.