Great Neck Village residents have raised concerns to the village’s Building Department that students attending the Beit Midrash Great Neck yeshiva may be living in dormitory conditions that are both unsafe and in violation of village code.
Longtime village resident David Zielenziger brought his concerns that a house at 26 Ravine Rd. is being used as impromptu student housing for Beit Midrash Great Neck, a yeshiva operating out of the third floor of the office building on 307 East Shore Rd, before representatives of the village’s Building Department at their Aug 20 meeting. Zielenziger said it was his understanding that the supposed dorm housed an unsafe number of students and had not been granted a permit by the village to act as housing for a religious school.
“You have to have a use permit from the village if you want to sell beans on Middle Neck Road,” Zielenziger told the Great Neck Record. “Well, they haven’t done it, and they’ve been here for years. How can you have this sort of religious dormitory on Ravine Road?”
In response to the comments Zielenziger made at the meeting, Building Department Superintendent Len Baron said he visited the Ravine Road property to examine the conditions there himself. While not going into detail, and declining to speak with the Great Neck Record about the matter further, Baron called the use of the property “illegal” during the meeting.
Beit Midrash Great Neck has been in operation for seven years as a religious education institution for young Orthodox Jewish men. In a fundraising post the yeshiva made on the web-based platform The Chesed Fund in 2018, Beit Midrash Great Neck said it served 24 bochurim—young, unmarried Jewish men, and posts on online forums from curious parents show children from families as far away as New Jersey attended the school.
County land records confirmed that the house at 26 Ravine Rd. is owned by Beit Midrash Great Neck, through the BMGN Bayit LLC, of which its rabbi Evan Rubin is a managing member and trustee. Tax filings with the Internal Revenue Service show the yeshiva claimed $1.6 million in revenue, which it said came entirely from gifts and donations, and $2 million worth of assets in 2017. Country records show Beit Midrash Great Neck purchased the property on May 19, 2017 for $845,000, and several Ravine Road residents have remarked that they have seen Orthodox men coming back and forth from the house in the two-plus years since.
Ravine Road lies entirely within a Residence B District zoning area. According to village code, buildings within that district can be used as, among other acceptable functions, a village government building, “single-family detached dwelling” or a “church or other building used exclusively for religious purposes.” A building in the area may also be used for a “parochial and nonprofit private school” when authorized by the Board of Trustees, which may grant a special permit if the use of the building meets certain criteria. None of the minutes or agendas of the Zoning Board of Appeals meetings since Oct. 10, 2017, the most recent date of a meeting following the purchase of 26 Ravine Rd. available online, make mention of an application for a permit.
Zielenziger said students living in the crowded impromptu dorm are having their safety put in jeopardy should anything happen in the house.
The situation reminded him of the Dec. 2017 house fire on 36 Brokaw Lane. The blaze resulted in all 13 residents of the crowded house, designed for single-family occupancy, requiring treatment for injuries they sustained.
“The place was listed by the owner as being rented to one family,” Zielenziger said. “But it wasn’t, it was being used as a sort-of illegal boarding house. Conceivably, you could have had a dozen people killed.”
Neither Rubin nor any other member of Beit Midrash Great Neck responded to repeated requests for comment on the matter.