Photo by PayPaul
This evening marks the first night of Sukkot, and observant Jewish families across the community are erecting booths – called a sukkah – where they will gather, eat and (in some cases) sleep for the next seven days.
Some neighbors, however, are irked by one storefront congregation’s sukkah, which bulks out into the middle of the sidewalk.
Congregation Bnei Shelomo Vyaffa at 1305 Gravesend Neck Road has set up a sukkah that takes as much as two-thirds of the sidewalk, leaving less room for pedestrians to slip by.
Reader PayPaul sent us the following e-mail, expressing his displeasure:
Could this Jewish Temple on Neck Road and East 13th Street shown some more tact and respect towards their neighbors by informing them in advance of their installation of a Sukkot tent that blocks the sidewalk considerably in front of their East 13th Street entrance? They could have at least apologized for the inconvenience in advance. That would have gone a long way in ameliorating any upset people.
You and others have to see it for yourselves. I even asked them about it. First they claimed to have a permit and then changed their story to say the 61st precinct told them it wasn’t worth the time as it would take too long to process. Meanwhile I know their next door neighbor is very upset over it. Imagine some elderly or handicapped people trying to get by this obstacle?
Another person took to Reddit to say the same:
It’s that time of year again! Sukkot. My friend took this picture of a Sukkot Tent outside of a business in Brooklyn. I live in Midwood so I see these everywhere but it’s usually on residential property and not always out on the sidewalk like this.
I know that certain laws have variances and loopholes for religious observance but I’m not sure this qualifies as legal. IT’s a pretty unsafe obstruction! My dad used to get tickets because he had a SIGN on the Sidewalk by the Curb. This just can’t be legal can it?
Anyone have more info on the issue?
We reached out the Department of Buildings to find out if there are any regulations concerning this. They said they do not oversee the construction of structures this small, but that we should reach out to the Department of Transportation to see if they have any policy’s regarding the sidewalk use. We haven’t yet heard back from them.
We could not find contact information for the congregation to seek their input.
Until we hear back, we ask our readers to remember that New York City’s greatness is predicated on its diversity. The city government makes occasional, understandable exceptions to accommodate the various religious, ethnic and cultural needs of its residents. Sometimes, a balance needs to be struck between meeting those needs and the needs of the bustling masses at large.
It’s not for us at Sheepshead Bites to say whether this sukkah is too large, or poses a danger to those with disabilities (in fact, I’m more bothered by the garbage against the utility pole, which, if it were not there, would give far more space for passersby). If neighbors are bothered by the structure, we hope they continue to politely press the issue with the congregation, and in the future the congregation look to make adjustments to address those concerns.
Who knows? Sukkot is a holiday in which those who celebrate are encouraged to invite neighbors and friends to their sukkah for food, drink and celebration. Maybe if you politely mention your concerns, you’ll be invited inside for a drink, and then it won’t seem large enough.
Photo by Lisanne