Monday, April 29, 2013
One August morning, Eckerson Lane residents woke up to see the reconstruction of a large house, close to the corner of heavily traveled East Eckerson Road.
The homeowners soon learned workers were converting the three-story house, with windows added to a three-car garage and four windows on each floor, into an Orthodox Jewish religious school for a Monsey-based congregation.
Ramapo Building Department inspectors have issued two stop-work orders before the chief building inspector approved a school inside the house for at least a year. The congregation is now looking to build a larger school on the property for 250 male students, ages 7 to 13.
Neighbors say they still don't understand how the temporary school got approval before they were told about the plans, shown any designs or allowed to opine on the school's impact on their lives and the neighborhood.
"It's the wrong place to have a school," said James Reid, a Trinity Avenue homeowner. "There will be traffic and hazards from school buses making the turn off Eckerson Road and parking issues. There will be noise early in the mornings and on Sundays. There will be drainage onto other properties.
"Our property values will decrease," said Reid, a retired teacher who has coached youth basketball. "This is not good for our community."
As far as the longtime residents are concerned, the school is a harbinger that their neighborhood is changing, as the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community establishes a foothold — something other areas of Ramapo have experienced.
The neighborhood — including Eckerson Lane, Trinity Avenue and Rockland Lane — is largely working class, with Haitians, South Africans, blacks, Hispanics, and non-Orthodox Jews. People — including nurses, teachers, bus drivers and pharmaceutical company employees — have owned their homes for several decades and have raised children in the community, where parties and barbecues are common.
"No one told us anything," said Lee Shangase, a 23-year Eckerson Lane resident who escaped apartheid in South Africa and came to the United States in 1981. He's retired from Pfizer.
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