Residents and Community Board 13 may have voted down a proposal by an area synagogue to put a bus layover zone on a residential street, but it remains unclear what impact that will have on city approval since the board acts only in an advisory position.
Hundreds of pilgrims, members of Congregation Ohel Chabad Lubavitch, located at 226-20 Francis Lewis Blvd., visit the adjacent Montefiore Cemetery each day and thousands stop by on special religious occasions to pray and reflect near the graves of the sect’s leader, the late Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, and his father-in-law, Yosef Schneersohn, the prior rebbe.
There are concerns among homeowners in the quiet Cambria Heights community about noise, traffic and pollution caused by buses that already come to the area and idle when they drop off the pilgrims. The group’s rabbi, Abba Refson, sees the proposal for bus parking, preferably on Francis Lewis Boulevard between 227th and 228th streets, as a solution, while neighbors worry it would only make things worse.
Asked whether the congregation would move forward with the proposal following the dual no votes, the group’s lawyer, Frederick Becker declined to comment. Similarly Refson, who didn’t know about the results of the Sept. 24 CB 13 decision until informed by the Chronicle last Thursday, would not answer directly.
“We try to accommodate everyone as best as possible,” Refson said. “We don’t have many options.”
Alternate suggestions made by the community include putting the layover zone on Springfield Boulevard, a commercial strip with more room, and having the buses use the cemetery parking lot.
Both suggestions were rejected by the congregation — the first, according to Becker associate Lyra Altman, because she said the long walk from Springfield Boulevard to the grave would constitute a hardship; and the other because Altman said the cemetery refused to lease the land because it plans to sell it in the future.
A spokesman for the cemetery said he did not know of any such plans and if they did exist they were probably in the very preliminary stages. continue...