Area residents spoke out at Community Board 8 last Wednesday against an application to amend a variance given to the Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Jamaica Estates.
The 80-14 Chevy Chase St. synagogue seeks to legalize a larger cellar assembly space, an accessory kitchen and a brick wall. Back in 2008 when it approved the building’s construction, the Board of Standards and Appeals said using “a room or other space for the operation of a business engaged in preparing or serving food or beverages for functions, occasions or events” would not be permitted.
The synagogue agreed, but it since has used the kitchen to make food for people at the congregation and for catering.
“The synagogue has grown and grown and has a commercial kitchen in the basement,” Margo Pangalos, who lives nearby, told the audience at the advisory panel’s meeting.
Another resident who spoke at the meeting brought in an advertisement for a gala dinner at the house of worship in a Queens publication.
Various violations have also netted the synagogue more than $90,000 in Department of Buildings fines and a work without a permit infraction resulting in a $8,000 Environmental Control Board penalty.
CB 8 had been scheduled to vote on the synagogue’s application at its March meeting, but the house of worship’s leadership asked that it be tabled amid intense criticism from area residents.
The application was initially on the agenda for the panel’s meeting last Wednesday, but CB 8 Chairwoman Martha Taylor explained to the audience that the synagogue had again asked to postpone the vote.
Land use attorney Richard Lobel, who represents the house of worship, told the Chronicle after the meeting that the vote was again delayed because synagogue representatives are going to meet with concerned residents at a meeting set up by City Councilman Rory Lancman’s (D-Fresh Meadows) office.
“The synagogue is really looking forward to working with the Council member and the community to come to an understanding and to demonstrate that they will work to improve the surrounding area,” Lobel said.
The attorney noted that the synagogue had taken steps to beautify the area, including cleaning up trash in front of and on the side of its building.
Lobel also pointed out that the application is intended to legalize the kitchen as a place for internal synagogue events, such as religious functions, and not for catering.
Also at its meeting, CB 8 unanimously approved an application for the demolition and rebuilding of a gas station at 187-01 Hillside Ave. in Jamaica Estates. The four-pump Exxon location will get six fuel pump islands.
CB 8 also heard from Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), who used to serve on it.
She invited those in attendance to a free bike helmet giveaway on Sunday, Oct. 20 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Farm Playground in Fresh Meadows, at 73rd Avenue and 196th Street.
Rozic also urged those in attendance to attend a Wednesday, Oct. 23 state Senate community forum about property tax relief. It will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Little Theatre at St. John’s University. Speaking at the event will be Rozic; state Sens. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan), Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan); Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows); and City Councilmen Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows).
Rozic briefly discussed the city Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform, which has been invited to the event.
“It’s supposed to come out with its findings at the end of the year, so that hopefully, by next year, when we return to Albany for session, we will have a couple of ideas on how to reform the New York City property tax system,” she said.