Sephardic Community Center to Double in Size

Variances will allow full-service early childhood/daycare center, teen lounge, senior adult center, gyms and additional facilities. In 1978, the Board of Standards & Appeals granted variances to the Sephardic Community Center to allow community facility use in an R5 zoning district. The Center operates a 3-story, 42,495-square-foot space where it offers educational, athletic, and counseling services to the Orthodox Jewish Community and area residents. The location, 1901 Ocean Parkway, is in a primarily residential neighborhood of two and three-story dwellings.

In 1989 and 2000, the Center received two additional variances permitting further expansion on two lots, but the expansion did not occur. Subsequently, the Center received a $250,000 federal appropriation, shepherded by Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hilary Rodham Clinton, for its expansion and subsequently acquired two additional contiguous lots.

In its current variance request, the Center sought approval for an expansion of 37,874 sq.ft., consisting of a 3,400-square-foot fourth story addition to the existing building and a new 34,473-square-foot building on the acquired lots. The expansion required seven variance approvals to allow the design to exceed permitted height, setback, lot coverage, and floor area, and to provide less open space, side yards, and rear yards. Even though the zoning permitted only a 35-foot height, the existing building was 50 feet and the new four-story building would be 63 feet.

The Center argued that the new design would be more in context with the area and would, in fact, require a slightly smaller variance than the one approved in 2000. Several elected officials, including Senators Clinton and Schumer, wrote in support of the Center’s variance application. Schumer’s statement included a pledge of close to $2 million in federal funds to assist the Center.

BSA unanimously approved, finding the Center had demonstrated that it would be unable to meet its needs without the variances. Based in part on a site visit by Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan and Vice-Chair Satish Babbar, BSA found that the new building would not be out of context, citing two 4-story buildings on East 7th and Avenue S as well as other community facilities in the immediate area. The Center, as a not-for-profit, was not required to prove hardship.

BSA: 1901 Ocean Parkway (206-04-BZ) (September 14, 2004) (Howard A. Zipser, Esq., Stadtmauer Bailkin Biggins LLC, for Sephardic Community Center).

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