Residents packed the CNL Center at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village on Wednesday night to speak out on the proposed expansion of Glendale’s Yeshiva Godolah Seminary (YGS) during a Community Board 5 public hearing.
Many in attendance opposed the YGS plan for a Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) zoning variance allowing the seminary at 74-10 88th St. to build an extension to combine the two buildings on the campus into one, four-story building, adding more dormitories and bathrooms.
“The building itself, as it stands, will remain,” said attorney Jay Goldstein, who represents the yeshiva. “The enlargement will be the one-story portion closest to 88th Street [that will] receive three additional floors which will be dormitory rooms, and then there will be a four-story addition with a cellar which will act as a gymnasium, also classrooms and the additional dorm space.”
In the variance, the YGS seeks to reclassify the yeshiva as a religious school, since the building’s use is not permitted under the existing manufacturing zoning for the site, which is in an M1-1 zoning district.
“The yeshiva currently has 1,050 students,” Goldstein said. “Those students are extremely cramped within the learning space they are in right now … and the yeshiva seeks to expand to allow them to have extra classrooms so that they can have a better learning experience.”
Currently, the yeshiva has 360 dorm beds and seeks to expand to 710 dorm beds for the current student population.
“The yeshiva is not seeking an enlargement of the building to increase the population of the school. The population of the school is going to remain the same,” Goldstein assured the board.
Opponents of the variance pointed back to 2006, when the yeshiva was constructed. According to Dawn Scala, a Glendale resident, the original certificate of occupancy (C of O) for the yeshiva listed on the Department of Buildings’ website did not mention dorms on the site.
“In October of 2007, another temporary C of O was issued. This time it did mention accessory offices and dorms,” Scala said. “In January of 2008 a final C of O was issued and it mentions … accessory offices and dorms. So I looked at the zoning regulations and I discovered the following … sleeping accommodations are not allowed in M1-1 zone.”
This raised questions as to the legality of the current dorms at the yeshiva.
Several board members and residents also raised concerns over what adding more dormitories and bathrooms would do to the already stressed sewer system in Glendale.
“Now the dormitory situation is still the same as it was in 2006, we have a faulty infrastructure in Glendale, as the chair will tell you,” said Kathy Masi, CB 5 member. “We’re doing sewers regularly, we’re doing roads regularly, we’re trying to get caught up, and I just feel, as I did in 2006, that the impact on this is going to be terrible for the community.”
Although the community has concerns over the expansion, the YGS believes that if the BSA grants the variance for the extension, it will benefit the community by lowering the number of buses the yeshiva requires to transport students to and from their homes in Williamsburg to the school each day.
“By allowing for the additional beds it will significantly reduce the number of buses that travel back and forth every day,” Goldstein said. “It’s anticipated that the number of buses will be cut, approximately, in half.”
The CB 5 Land Use Committee is looking to set up a meeting with the YGS to tour the yeshiva and evaluate the property and the proposed expansion before making a recommendation to the board.