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CB 8 OK’s Bukharian synagogue’s variances

The Fresh Meadows community is to be home to a new Bukharian temple that requested zoning variances, but despite the description, it is not the temple that sparked such bitter debate earlier in the spring.

The Fresh Meadows Bukharian Synagogue appealed to Community Board 8's zoning committee June 2 for two variances to allow it not to provide any parking and for slimmer front yards on the corner lot. The congregation had purchased the property at 71-52 172nd St. in Fresh Meadows, where a one-story structure stands on the lot, in 2006.

The group asked the zoning committee to waive the rule that a community facility have a 15-foot front yard, saying that it would make one of the two front yards on the corner lot five feet deep and the other 10 feet. For a community facility this size, the zoning resolution requires 14 parking spaces. The congregation asked to waive the requirement because a majority of the congregation lives within three-quarters of a mile of the site.

If these requests sound familiar, it is because in March another congregation, the Bukharian Cultural Center, asked CB 8 for similar variances for a temple on 80th Road at the corner of Chevy Chase Street in Jamaica Estates. If approved, it would be the fourth temple on the block it shares with Hillcrest Jewish Center, an Israeli congregation called Beit Israel of Jamaica Estates and the Anshe Shalom building under construction.

The Bukharian Cultural Center congregation's request was met with deep and vocal skepticism by the board, which referred it to the borough president's Land Use Committee in late March.

During the public participation portion of the June 2 committee hearing about the Fresh Meadows Bukharian synagogue, Rabbi Dr. Richard Weiss from the nearby Young Israel of Hillcrest and Rabbi Asher Schechter, whose congregation worships on 73rd Avenue a block from the proposed site, both endorsed the congregation and the temple's creation, as did most of the 14 speakers, according to the hearing notes. Schechter told the audience that he had heard only positive feedback from the community.

The committee approved the variances by a vote of 7-0, the hearing notes said.

"This applicant has been and will continue to be a good neighbor," CB 8 Zoning Committee Chairman Steven Konigsberg said, according to the notes. "They understand the need to compromise and be respectful of those who live nearby."

When the full board voted on the matter at the June 11 meeting, it was again unanimously approved.

Meantime, the Bukharian Cultural Center's temple application is waiting for the Board of Standards and Appeals to issue a recommendation regarding its fate.

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