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Friday Rezoning Meeting Irks Observant Jews and Others Who Can't Attend

By Rachel Holliday Smith | August 12, 2014 5:12pm | Updated on August 13, 2014 5:07pm
 A forum hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on rezoning Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights is set for Friday evening, upsetting travelers and observant Jews in the neighborhood.
A forum hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on rezoning Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights is set for Friday evening, upsetting travelers and observant Jews in the neighborhood.
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Composite with City of New York and Eric Adams's Office

CROWN HEIGHTS — Some neighborhood residents are angry that the borough president set a community meeting about rezoning part of Empire Boulevard for Friday evening, which would exclude observant Jews and people leaving for the weekend. 

Neighborhood residents asked Borough President Eric Adams to convene a forum about rezoning part of the boulevard between Flatbush and Rogers avenues so his office set it for 6 p.m. at Full Gospel Assembly, 131 Sullivan Place.

But the time Adams' office set for the forum upset residents eager to weigh in, especially Jews who observe Shabbat at that time and others who will be out of town.

“Why are you making a forum on a weekend — on a Friday at 6 o’clock  if you want participation from the community?” said Alicia Boyd, founder of Movement to Protect the People, an organization fighting zoning efforts in the neighborhood that could bring tall residential towers.

Several of the organization's members who cannot attend the forum because they have weekend plans, Boyd said.

Jewish residents and store owners on Empire have a more immovable conflict: observance of Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Friday.

Community Board 9 alerted the borough president’s office about this conflict in an email.

“Just a gentle reminder that we have Jewish property owners on Empire Blvd., who will not be able to participate in this forum,” district manager Pearl Miles wrote to a borough hall staffer last week.

In answer, the staff member wrote back that the community had specifically requested the meeting and “if there is a need for an additional forum, we will host it.”

But that’s not a sufficient solution to Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, a longtime Crown Heights resident who chaired CB9 for three decades.

“If Borough Hall was smart, they’d say, 'No, we have to do it Monday through Thursday,'” the rabbi said. “The government should not be sponsoring, co-sponsoring or hosting meetings that fall on religious days.”

The idea to rezone Empire Boulevard is part of a larger effort to study rezoning throughout Community Board 9, which covers southern Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

CB9 requested that the City Planning Commission begin the rezoning study in a letter written to the agency in April.

The Empire Boulevard rezoning forum will take place Friday, August 15 at 6 p.m. at the Full Gospel Assembly church located at 836 Franklin Ave. in Brooklyn. Previously, the meeting had been scheduled to meet at 131 Sullivan Pl.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said his office scheduled the Friday evening meeting at the request of Richard Hurley, president of the Crown Heights Community Council, an organization of block associations in the neighborhood. Hurley confirmed he requested the date and said the conflict with Shabbat was an unfortunate oversight.