Thursday, April 27, 2006

City Council vs Riverdale Jews

NYDN: A simmering feud over the proposed landmark designation for Fieldston is set to come to a head today with the City Council scheduled to take a final vote on the issue. The Council's Land Use Committee voted this month to approve the Landmarks Preservation Commission's January decision to designate Fieldston a historic district, clearing the way for today's full Council vote. Though the committee vote was nearly unanimous, the debate over the designation has divided the normally tranquil community of 250 pricey detached homes in Riverdale. There were even whispered hints of anti-Orthodox Jewish bias because the restrictions that come with landmarking would make it more difficult to expand homes to accommodate large families. Supporters of historic designation - including some Orthodox Jews - dismissed the suggestion. Land Use Committee member and Orthodox Jew Simcha Felder (D-Ditmas Park) remarked before voting for the designation that he had found no evidence of bias. Opponents have collected signatures from more than half of Fieldston homeowners on a petition asking the City Council to reject or at least postpone the plan, but Councilman Oliver Koppell, a Fieldston resident, has pushed for approval as a personal crusade. There was little opposition when the designation process began in 2003, but skepticism grew as homeowners learned more about requirements that could add significantly to the time and cost of repairs or additions. "I was very gratified by the committee vote," said Koppell (D-Riverdale), who predicted easy passage in the final City Council vote....
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