“Neighbors are infuriated by the dismissal of a lawsuit over a three-car garage they claim is a being used as a synagogue.
A lawsuit filed by the religious educational center has been dropped with the village’s support that challenged a Zoning Board Appeals ruling voiding the building inspector’s original certificate of occupancy for the structure on Spring Hill Terrace.
The agreement leading to the court dismissal on Monday: The building inspector issued new certificates of occupancy.
But neighbors argue nothing has changed as they contend the Brooklyn-based Kedishas Aharon D’Hadas continues to use the building for religious services.
“They neutered what the ZBA did,” said Hilda Kogut, a retired FBI agent who leads the village chapter of Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods, known as CUPON.
“They continue using the accessory building as a house of worship even after we proved to the village that it’s a house of worship, not a three-car garage,” she said.
Kogut said the new certificate of occupancy showed the village mayor and attorney “have no respect for the decision of the zoning board.”
“Why have a zoning board when you are going to overrule them,” she said.
Building Inspector Russell Gliniecki re-issued the certificate of occupancy with Village Attorney Walter Sevastian’s approval on March 21, two days after the ZBA revoked the original certificate on a challenge by Kogut and another resident, according to village documents.
Mayor Rosario “Sam” Presti said the new certificates of occupancy don’t include allowing worshiping. He said the certificates cover the single-family house and the separate ritual bath called a mikvah, which had been built inside the property’s old garage. Village law requires a garage, hence the new structure was built.
The legal action was dropped Monday on consent by the village and Kedishas Aharon D’Hadas, said Presti and Dennis Lynch, the attorney who represents the educational center.
“We’ve been able to amicably resolve the issue,” Lynch said Tuesday. “The religious education center will be able to continue exactly as before. There was no basis to challenge the certificate of occupancy to begin with.”
Magali Dupuy, a neighbor of the building and 20-year Chestnut Ridge resident, said the building still is being used for worship and cars illegally jam up the street, estimating 40 cars during a recent holiday. She said lights coming from the religious structure are blinding at night.
“This is a smack in the face to residents,” Dupuy said of the village agreement with the center. “They knew the plans were wrong. We’re not saying don’t have houses of worship. We’re saying do the right things by the neighborhood.”
She said the residents will meet with their attorney to plan their next move.
“A lot of us are upset,” she said. “We were challenged to prove this was a house of worship, not a garage, and we did. Only one group is getting listened to by the mayor and rest of the board.”
Lynch said the village’s determination to create zoning guidelines for houses of worship was not a factor in the dismissal.”
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