Synagogue eliminated residences to obtain variance

Synagogue had sought approval of eight market-rate residential units as part of new synagogue and yeshiva. BSA granted a variance to Congregation Somlou, permitting a four-story synagogue with a yeshiva and a single accessory apartment for use by a rabbi at 245 Hooper Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Somlou initially proposed to construct a five-story building with eight market-rate residential units, requiring variances for floor area, height, setback, lot coverage, and rear yard size. Community Board 1 opposed the five-story proposal, arguing that Somlou had not established unique hardship or institutional need. BSA informed Somlou that a community facility waiver was not justified since the project’s excess size was caused by the market-rate units and not the synagogue.

In response, Somlou proposed four units rather than eight, claiming the units would be used as a monastery. BSA asked Somlou to confirm with Buildings that a monastery use was permitted in the R6 district. After Somlou failed to obtain Buildings’ confirmation, BSA requested that Somlou reduce the building’s size and propose only one residential unit for a rabbi’s use.

Somlou made the requested alterations and argued that the 3,605 square-foot site had an irregular depth and unique floor plate, requiring variances for rear yard size, community facility lot coverage, and the distance between windows and lot lines. Somlou also argued that the proposal met programmatic needs for increased worship space, classrooms, meeting rooms, and an apartment for the rabbi.

In approving the four-story proposal, BSA agreed that the site’s unique condition created a hardship and noted that the four-story development would not alter the neighborhood character or disturb adjacent properties.

BSA: 245 Hooper St. (75-05-BZ) (May 2, 2006) (Harold Weinberg, for Somlou).CITYADMIN

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