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Holy no can do! Community Board 15 rejects temple plan to expand in Gravesend • Brooklyn Paper

Holy no can do! Community Board 15 rejects temple plan to expand in Gravesend

Abe Safdieh says his home behind Shaare Zion syngagogue would be shrouded in darkness if the shul builds its proposed six-story tower on Ocean Parkway in Gravesend.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Holy high rise!

A Gravesend synagogue vowed to proceed with the construction of a six-story annex to its schul over the objections of angry neighbors — some of them its own worshippers — who said the expansion would amount to a Tower of Babel that would shroud their homes in darkness and gobble up their parking spots.

Congregation Shaare of Zion’s plan to turn the two-story property it owns next door to its temple on Ocean Pkwy. between Avenues S and T into a 65-foot-tall building was rejected by Community Board 15 on Tuesday when members voted 19 to 13 to nix the proposal, which calls for more classroom and prayer space to alleviate overcrowding in the main building.

Project opponents said the lofty structure would turn day into night along Avenue T and E. Fifth Street.

“It would blot out our light and engulf our homes in darkness,” said Abe Safdieh who lives on the block.

Other homeowners complained that temple-goers hog their driveways on the Sabbath — a problem that would only worsen if Shaare Zion expanded and more people started attending classes and prayer services.

“I love the shul, but the parking situation is out of control,” said Heather Dayan. “This isn’t fair to neighbors [because] the current building is sufficient.”

The expansion, said synagogue attorney Lyra Altman, isn’t designed to increase the shul’s current flock of 670 families.

“The goal here is to accommodate the existing congregants, it is not intended to draw additional congregants.”

But critics disagreed.

“If you build more space, more people are going to [join],” said Dayan.

The synagogue needs an official variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals to erect a building taller than 35 feet, but it was required to bring the project before the community board as a matter of protocol. Altman said Shaare Zion will proceed with the expansion, whose cost she didn’t disclose, because the board’s role is only advisory.

“We’re waiting for a hearing with [the zoning board],” she added.

The synagogue declined to comment.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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