A Sukkah planned for Duane Park in Tribeca will instead be erected on an empty lot that is twice as large at 70 Warren Street, which is owned by real estate company B. Jaffe Real Estate, the New York Times reported. Chabad at Tribeca had planned to construct the Sukkah in Duane Park for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which begins the evening of Oct. 12.
But some members of Community Board 1 had opposed the plan, saying that the park was too small and suggesting that allowing it in a public park could violate the First Amendment prohibition of the establishment of religion. In addition, Friends of Duane Park, a local community group, had also been against the proposal because they had planned a fundraising tour of local lofts with the park as a starting point.
The community board was going to have a final vote on the issue tonight, but the board’s Chair Julie Menin ended up making contact with B. Jaffe Real Estate. The owner agreed to remove cars and other materials stored on the lot, but insisted that Chabad have insurance, a place for bathrooms, weekend staffing and restrict visiting hours to 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, Friends of Duane Park will pay $600 for staffing the lot.
Charles Karp, who manages several buildings in the area for Jaffe Real Estate, said he offered the lot because, “I’m trying to be a good neighbor.”
“This solution gets us out of the rubric of religious use in public parks by having it on private street,” said Menin, who had originally been looking for a way to accommodate the Sukkah. “It was clear to me that some in the community were opposed to it because of the fact that Duane Park is an extremely small park and because Friends of Duane Park had an event to come and some were concerned about the religious use of a public park. But it was important for Chabad to celebrate the Jewish holiday.”
While Rabbi Zalman Paris of Chabad of Tribeca was surprised by the controversy since Chabad has put Sukkahs in other parks, his wife said he was pleased that a peaceful solution was reached. [NYT]