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Hasidic Group in Brooklyn Vying to Acquire Navy Yard

The Hasidic community of New York’s Williamsburg section is hoping to acquire the Brooklyn Navy Yard and use it to provide housing for the growing number of Hasidic families here.

The famed naval station, where ships were built during World War II, is among the 86 U.S. armed forces bases that the defense secretary’s Commission on Base Realignments recommended be closed in 1990 for budgetary reasons.

Rabbi Chaim Stauber made the request as president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, an umbrella group for the Williamsburg Hasidim.

Stauber has an appointment with Pentagon officials in late March to discuss the property. “We are telling the federal government to allow affordable public housing for us,” he said.

The rabbi explained that since the base had been built on “tax dollars from American citizens,” they should be able to reap the rewards of their dollars without further payment.

“Give us the property.” said Stauber. “Our community is bursting at the seams.”

The Williamsburg Jewish community includes Satmar, Pupa and Tzalim Hasidim, all of whose groups originated in Hungary, as well as non-Hasidim, said Stauber. He said his agency represents 126 Jewish organizations.

But the base’s closing is not yet definite, and there is already conflict over who, if anyone, would get the property.

Even though other local groups and companies have expressed interest in the yard, Congress still has 45 legislative days from March 1 to vote down the commission’s recommendations.

In addition, President Bush could veto the closings, said Glenn Flood, a spokesman for the Defense Department.

The first right to request or refuse any base goes to the other branches of the armed services, and then to other federal governmental agencies.

If rejected, the Brooklyn base would then go to local government agencies to decide its destiny. But in any case, the base would have to be bought from the Navy “for some type of negotiated fee,” Flood said.

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