With overdevelopment a hot topic, new temple proposed


A proposal to build a Sephardic synagogue across the street from Hewlett High School ignited roughly one hour of public comment with mixed reactions to the proposed shul at a Aug. 17 Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals hearing.

The temple, called The Sephardic Congregation of Hewlett, has been operating out of multiple congregant homes for roughly two years, as there is no permanent home base to worship at. 

“More and more families are moving in,” Hewlett resident Sergey Kalantarov said. “Our congregation has grown. We need a new home. Right now we are a nomadic tribe with no place to call our home.”

The property the synagogue has targeted is at 56 East Rockaway Road in Hewlett— a single-family zoned property — where congregants would worship in a temporary, 87-person capacity trailer while a permanent synagogue is built over the span of at least three years. 

While congregants were supportive of the development, residents neighboring the property were not so happy.

Hewlett resident Bill Dubin, who also teaches at Hewlett High School, wants to see a traffic and environmental study done before any development takes place, as he is afraid the growing congregation could increase traffic and negatively affect parking in the area. 

“I am not opposed to people praying — far from it,” Dubin said. “People are certainly entitled to do that. I just think that we need to have some more answers before we can approve this.”

Within the past few months, overdevelopment has become one of the most discussed concerns of Five Towners and residents in surrounding communities.

The board also received a stack of written comments regarding the proposed development, which they will review and consider along with the rest of the public comments before they make a decision at a later date.

“We as zoning board must give absolute deference to any application for a synagogue, church, mosque or any other type of religious use of the community, and we are virtually required to grant these uses with whatever reasonable limitations can be put on them so it’s not to impact the community to its detriment,” Board of Appeals member David Weiss said at the hearing. “And that’s why it sounds like we’re saying that this is already going to be approved. That’s not the case.”