Community Board 14 has voted in favor of a zoning change on Lawrence Ave. in Kensington that would allow for the construction of a six-story yeshiva for autistic students.

The board has approved plans for a school on the site at 50 Lawrence Ave, which sits between McDonald Ave and Seton Place, in the past, but the new plans, which went before the full board in December, are for a school specifically for autistic teenagers.

The previous plans said the school would hold 700 students, but the updated plans presented to the board are for around 150 students. A representative of the school, Moshe Friedman, told a public hearing in December that the reduced number of students was “because autistic children need more room.”

At the public hearing, a number of board and community members expressed concerns about the location of the school, called Hadran Academy, due to existing traffic on Lawrence Ave., saying it was already too small to accommodate the vehicles currently using it.

Friedman said that the students and roughly 125 staff members would predominantly be using public transport to get to the school, adding “part of mission is to teach them how to be adults and navigate the world.”

He said there would only be one school bus per day.

Rabbi Mordechai Meisels, the founder and educational director of Hadran, told the public hearing that the school was geared towards children with high functioning autism, “one of the most misunderstood populations in special education and in world of special needs.”

He said that parents had been reaching out to him asking him to open the school, which has other branches in the tristate area, since 2013.

“The need is growing, autism is growing according to CDC,” he told the meeting.

The site that was voted on by the community board is currently split between residential and commercial zoning and will need to be changed through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for the school to be built.

At the full board meeting, members said they had never denied an application for the construction of a new school, and for most, the need for the school outweighed the concerns that came with the traffic around the site.

Board member Mordechai Husarsky said the area around the school was “by and large an orthodox Hasidic community and this is serving their needs in that community.”

“For us to hinder children to have a school that they need in the community in the location of the community that is serving those children, those children come from within that community… For us to handcuff them in a way that might make it more difficult for them to service the community to me is not what the board is intended to do the board is intended to serve the community needs.”

The plans will now go to the Brooklyn Borough President in the next step of the lengthy ULURP process.


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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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