Tag Archives: Bayside Jewish Center

Bayside residents rail against high school proposal at CB 11 meeting


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

Bayside residents showed up in large numbers to Monday’s Community Board 11 (CB 11) meeting to contend with a proposed high school planned for the former Bayside Jewish Center.

Although many were interested in speaking on the issue of the proposed school, most of the attendees had not realized they needed to pre-register for the public participation segment of the evening and were not allowed to have the floor. The few who did get to speak out against the school received a raucous applause from the rest of the audience.

“Put simply, this project is not needed and is not wanted,” said Nancy Kupferberg, a Bayside resident who has had two of her children attend nearby Bayside High School. Kupferberg appeared on behalf of many others to present a total of 3,100 letters from community residents, students and staff members to express their concerns about the proposal.

“What my experience tells me is that we don’t want this,” added Ana Baires, a resident of the area around Bayside High School. She spoke of teenagers loitering around her house and causing trouble.

The residents were so eager to speak on the matter that many members of the frustrated crowd spilled out into the hallway. Chairwoman Christine Haider said a discussion will be held in the future when the community board has more information about the project.

A staffer from Councilman Paul Vallone’s office was on hand to talk to residents and explain the process that the School Construction Authority (SCA) must follow to build the school. Vallone was an early supporter of the school’s installation, citing overcrowding in District 26. His office has since said that while the councilman is cautiously optimistic about a new school, he has not taken a stance on where it should be located.

While the SCA has put in a bid to for the Bayside Jewish Center, the deal is not finalized and several studies must be done to prove the area’s suitability for a school. A traffic study will analyze the potential impact on parking and congestion patterns, and an impact assessment will measure potential effects on the environment.

After passing the relevant studies, the proposed school will then be discussed by community boards and the general public, and would later be voted on by the City Council. Public hearings with the SCA may be scheduled as soon as this summer, according to a representative from Vallone’s office.

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Residents rally against high school planned for Bayside Jewish Center


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Residents living near the Bayside Jewish Center rallied with state Sen. Tony Avella on Thursday against a proposed high school planned for their neighborhood.

Around 75 people showed up at the intersection of 32nd Avenue and 204th Street and largely complained of overcrowded traffic and buses due to the existence of several other schools in the nearby vicinity, including a number of elementary schools and Bayside High School, which serves a student body of more than 3,000 only four blocks away.

While the protesters agreed that new schools should be built for local students, they did not think that their community could accommodate a school with a planned capacity of between 800 and 1,000 students.

Avella said the School Construction Authority (SCA) has systematically chosen school sites without the support of residents and elected officials, citing an unsuccessful 2013 outcry against an elementary school being built on 48th Avenue. He is introducing legislation which would amend education law to require detailed analyses to be made available upon the proposed construction of a new school in a city of over a million in population.

“Too many times, SCA has been allowed to barge into a neighborhood and construct a monstrous school wherever they choose,” said Avella. “We cannot allow this to keep happening.”

Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said that he and many others were frustrated with the lack of participation afforded to the community in the decision-making process for a new development.

“Above all, what they should be doing is consulting us, and asking the residents, what do they want, what should we put here, what do you need,” Euler said.

Members of Community Board 11 spoke before the crowd to offer their objections at not being consulted on the location of a new school.

“Come to the community and ask,” said board member Paul DiBenedetto. “They don’t know, they just look on a map.”

Some attending the rally even placed blame on the owners of the Jewish center for selling the property to the SCA, asserting that the building’s owners did not take enough care to choose an appropriate buyer to fill their place.

“They shouldn’t turn their backs on their neighbors, and impose on them an outsize school that would completely demolish the quality of life,” said Lance Premezzi, a resident of 32nd Avenue since 1950.

Councilman Paul Vallone, however, indicated that while compromises with the community will have to be made in the process leading up to the school’s construction, he looks forward to seeing a new school in his district, whether it is installed at the former Jewish center or at an alternative site.

“Any project of this size will always have opposition but in the end, we must weigh the merits of the site against the overwhelming demand for additional seats,” Vallone, who was initially an outspoken supporter for the creation of the proposed high school at the Jewish center, said in a statement. “The significant overcrowding in our schools is an issue that has been put off for too long and will only continue to worsen if it is not addressed.”

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Bayside Jewish Center to be converted to high school


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Vallone's office

The School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to purchase the Bayside Jewish Center and transform it into a new public high school, according to Councilman Paul Vallone.

The new school will go a long way toward solving the issue of overcrowding in District 26 schools, which are at 130 percent capacity and currently short more than 3,400 seats. The new school is set to alleviate around 25 percent of that gap.

Vallone said that he is going to work with residents to lessen the impact that a new school would have on their everyday lives, including potential effects on parking availability and local traffic concerns.

“What is critical now is making sure that the community and community board are involved in every step of the way and that we work closely with the SCA to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood,” Vallone said.

The SCA has stated that an Environmental Impact Study will soon begin at the site. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an Environmental Impact Study is done to assess significant environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment.

A public review process will be conducted after the study is completed, and then it will come to a vote before the entire City Council.

The Bayside Jewish Center has been at its current location at 32nd Avenue since 1960 and has seen the number of members in its congregation sharply drop in recent years. The center had an estimated congregation of 150 people in 2012 from 250 families a little over a decade before.

The proportion of Jewish households in northeast Queens plummeted by half from 1991 to 2001, from 44 percent of the population down to 22 percent a decade later, according to the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study.

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Changing demographic hurts Bayside Jewish Center


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By Melissa Bykofsky

Members of the Bayside Jewish Center remember a time when hundreds of local families attended Saturday services and more than 300 children enrolled in Hebrew school classes.

But these days, many wonder how much longer the 32nd Avenue temple can keep its doors open when a minyan, the group of 10 men required to hold a prayer session, is a struggle to form, and talks of a merger mean the congregation may have to sell its building.

“We are in a very bad situation,” said Sandy Schwartz, a member since 1964 and former president of the center. “Local synagogues are crying, [are] having financial difficulties and [are] merging. But our building is so beautiful. How can you take that and just scrap it?”

The crisis at the Bayside Jewish Center is just the latest to rise out of the changing demographics of the neighborhood over the past decade. Some synagogues in the area are trading in their traditional services for egalitarian ones. The young Jewish families that once populated the community have dispersed and new Jewish families are not moving in at the same rate they once did. A drive down Northern Boulevard shows Korean signs now hang over store fronts where kosher delis once stood.

“From a congregation that 10 years ago had maybe 250 families, we are down to 150 people,” said Bea Schwartz, who is married to Sandy and is president of the Bayside Jewish Center Sisterhood organization.

The proportion of Jewish households in northeast Queens plummeted by half in 10 years, from 44 percent of the population in 1991 to 22 percent a decade later, according to the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Community Study.

The change caused the Flushing and Fresh Meadows synagogues to merge in 2003. The Israel Center of Hillcrest Manor, Electchester Jewish Center of Flushing and the Conservative Synagogue of Jamaica Estates merged into the Center of Conservative Judaism in Flushing Meadows in 2004, and the remaining conservative congregations continue to shrink in size across northeast Queens.

“We merged because of our shrinking congregation and shrinking money,” said Byron Dresner, president of the Flushing-Fresh Meadows Jewish Center. “We had compatible liturgies, all conservadox, and we now have a viable congregation. But we are a senior citizens congregation. Very few young people and no Hebrew school.”

As the congregation of the Bayside Jewish Center struggles with dropping numbers, members must decide whether to sell their cherished sanctuary or merge with another across town.

One immediate option is for Bayside to unite with Garden Jewish Center, a traditional congregation in Flushing, whose building is up for sale. The rabbi and administrators of Garden Jewish Center declined comment.

But a merger could create several complications for Bayside Jewish Center. For instance, it could leave many elderly and conservative congregants with a long walk to services.

A merger could also change the character of Bayside’s traditional service, which allows only male members to lead the congregation and read from the Torah. Many other local synagogues allow men and women to participate equally.

“If Bayside Jewish Center does look to become egalitarian, the few members who go for the service will drop out,” said Bea Schwartz. “We have problems.”