A resident has raised questions about whether a Great Neck yeshiva is violating the village code by using a residence on Ravine Road to house students.
Beit Midrash Great Neck yeshiva has been a place of religious learning for Orthodox Jewish men since 2012. The yeshiva operates out of the third floor of an office building located at 307 East Shore Road.
It is roughly a three-minute walk to the house on Ravine Road.
As of last year, according to a post that Beit Midrash made on a fundraising platform, 24 unmarried young Jewish men attend the institute.
Great Neck resident David Zielenziger said he believes that several of those men are living at the Ravine Road house in violation of the Village of Great Neck code. Yeshiva officials did not respond to requests for comment.
“I’d say that I began noticing the trend of off-campus housing around two years ago,” Zielenziger said. “I would see these gentlemen walking up and down Ravine several times throughout the day, always coming from that house.”
The residence, located at 26 Ravine Road, is listed as a single-family residence on various real estate sites. Zielenziger said that he has seen upwards of five cars in the driveway at a time while seeing more than five people enter the house at a time. According to listings, the house has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a finished basement.
“I have not spoken with any of the residents living there,” he said. “It seems to me though, that this house, without an authorized permit by the village, is housing an excessive amount of these students, and I question the yeshiva taking the proper steps to make sure these students are being housed properly.”
According to Len Baron, the superintendent of the village Building Department, he has performed due diligence in making sure that the house is structurally sound and up to proper safety measures.
“I was up there, and the fire marshal was up there as well,” Baron said in response to comments from Zielenziner during a village board meeting last Tuesday. “They got an inspection and were ultimately approved by the fire marshal. The house has the proper amount of smoke detectors, and I have determined they are in a safe environment.”
He said that representatives from the yeshiva have reached out in regard to permits, but would not comment further, as permits have not yet been officially filed to the village.
The house, along with all of Ravine Road, is in the Residence B Zoning District, which according to village code can allow buildings to be erected if they are used for “single-family detached dwelling,” “church or other building used exclusively for religious purposes” or “parochial and nonprofit private school” when authorized by the Board of Trustees.
County records show that the house is owned by the yeshiva and managing member of BMGN Bayit LLC, Rabbi Evan Rubin. Records showed that the property was purchased in May 2017 for $845,000.
Internal Revenue Services tax filings indicate that Beit Midrash, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, claimed $1.6 million in revenue entirely from donations, with $2 million in assets in 2017.
“I’m not against any off-campus housing for these students,” Zielenziger said. “I don’t think anyone else is either. But the fact is that if they are being housed in a residency that does not coincide with the village code, then something needs to be done. Either the yeshiva needs to make proper arrangements, or the village officials have to step up and fix this.”
Baron said at last Tuesday’s meeting that he will provide updates to residents and the Board of Trustees.