Many worshippers pay respects to Hasidic leader Rabbi Menachem Schneerson at his grave site. But their presence frustrates the Cambria Heights residents who live in the area, especially now that the local Congregation wants to build dormitory-style housing for the pilgrims. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed this report.
Several times a year, thousands of worshipers make pilgrimages to this stretch of Francis Lewis Boulevard to pay homage at the grave site of Hasidic leader Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who died in 1994.
But residents of the serene tree-lined Cambria Heights neighborhood say the massive crowds are ruining their quality of life.
"We're a quiet community," said resident Carolyn Schaeb. "We like our peace and quiet. We don't like 15,000 people wandering all over the place."
"We're not looking for any kind of confrontation," said resident Euclid Jordan. "We are just trying to defend what's ours."
People come from all over the world to leave personal letters to the Rabbi and to pray. But when leaders of the Congregation of the Ohel Chabad Lubativich filed an application for a zoning variance to build dormitory-style housing for dozens of visitors, the Cambria Heights Civic Association decided to act.
Residents have held hearings, town hall meetings and filed numerous grievances with the Board of Standards and Appeals.
They say their primary concerns are over potential traffic congestion, noise, crowd control, waste disposal, health hazards and littering.
"It's not us against them," said Kelli Singleton, the president of the Cambria Heights Civic Association. "It's right against wrong and the improper usage of land."
NY1 repeatedly reached out to Congregation leader Rabbi Abba Refson, but he declined to comment.
The Board of Standards and Appeals says no final decision has been made on the application. A fifth public hearing on this matter is scheduled for Tuesday.
The Board says it ordered revisions to the project after hearing opposing testimony at the previous sessions. The revisions include reducing the size of the proposed building from 24,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet and reducing the number of overnight beds from 52 to 34.
Residents say they're not satisfied and will continue to make their grievances known.