City: Synagogue’s noisy air conditioning unit is illegal

With the neighboring synagogue nixing on its promise to reduce the noise emission from its industrial-sized HVAC unit, Isaac and Rosa Blum, two Holocaust survivors, have resorted to posting signs in their window in a desperate bid for peace and quiet.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A Manhattan Beach synagogue’s noisy, industrial-sized heating and air conditioning unit that has kept two neighboring Holocaust survivors up at night for more than four years was installed without the proper permits — but the city isn’t demanding that the ear-splitting unit be ripped out of the offending house of worship.

The Department of Buildings confirmed this week that they issued a violation against Congregation Shaarey Torah for installing the unit without filing the necessary permits with the city first. The violation was issued after inspectors were barred from entering the West End Avenue shul on six other occasions, preventing them from confirming complaints that stretch back to 2009.

The January inspection was no different: the only way city officials were able to confirm that an air conditioning unit had been installed at the temple was to go onto the roof of a neighboring home belonging to Isaac and Rosa Blum — two octogenarians who have been complaining about the device for years — so they can get a glimpse of the air conditioning system.

Yet, so far, the city isn’t demanding that it be removed. Instead, members of Councilman Michael Nelson’s staff are working with both the synagogue and the Blums to find some kind of resolution — a compromise that may allow the synagogue to keep their illegal air conditioning unit.

The city could handle the problem several ways, but Deborah Weiss, chief of staff for Councilman Nelson (D–Manhattan Beach) said the only action the city could take was “try to mediate the dispute.”

Weiss said that congregants have agreed to either replace the existing air conditioner with a smaller, quieter model, or to install noise dampening insulation.

“Statutorily, this is illegal,” Weiss said. “If nothing [to alleviate the problem] happens, the Blums would have the option of going to court.”

But Isaac Blum, 89, said that he and his wife are used to Congregation Shaarey Torah making false promises.

“It is nothing new, what [the synagogue is] proposing,” explained Blum, who said the synagogue’s air-conditioning system sounds like a “diesel engine” and is just a few feet from his bedroom window, so neither he nor his wife can sleep when it’s on. “I don’t believe them, not one iota.”

Yet congregation members say the dispute could be settled quicker if they could sit down with the Blums and hammer out some kind of compromise.

“The situation will be resolved because there’s no reason for it not be resolved, but that’s up to Mr. Blum,” said Perry Newman, an 18-year member of the congregation. “If he’s willing to sit down and work with people, then we can work something out.”

But the ongoing dispute may have already gone too far: a week after this paper wrote about the noisy air conditioning unit, a vandal marked up the windows to Blum’s Toyota Camry — covering up a copy of the article the senior had affixed to his window.

The car was sitting in front of Congregation Shaare Torah when it was vandalized, although congregation members said they couldn’t have done it since the attack happened on the Sabbath.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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