Each Saturday, Rochelle Neumann faced a dilemma: Go away for the Sabbath, or face the awkward predicament of being unable to easily re-enter her building at Peter Cooper Village if she goes to synagogue.
Neumann, a paralegal, and her daughter live in a building at the complex where, six months ago, management installed electronic keyless locks on the front door — prohibited for use by strictly observant Jews during the Sabbath.
“It’s been horrible,” said Neumann, a tenant for 18 years at the storied complex, a home to hundreds of Jewish families that was recently sold to Tishman Speyer Properties. “I used to never miss going to shul, but for the past several months I end up going to my sister’s house in Woodmere.
“I can’t afford to walk three or four blocks to the main guard booth and wait another 15 minutes for a guard to come and let me in.”
The new lock system, operated by a magnetic card, is intended for extra security, since a missing card can easily be programmed out of the system.
Now, after a group of legislators called on Tishman Speyer to address the problem – and following inquiries by reporters – the company has agreed to provide metal keys on request to Sabbath observers at Peter Cooper Village and nearby Stuyvesant Town, where the system is to be installed in coming months, and where religious tenants had started a letter campaign.
“The Orthodox Jewish residents will be given a key before sundown that will be returned on Sunday,” said Howard Rubenstein, the spokesman for Tishman Speyer, who said the accommodation would also be made on holidays. He said the company, which only recently acquired the property, acted quickly to show sensitivity to “religious and ethnic needs” of tenants.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who signed a letter to Tishman Speyer —together with the district’s representatives: Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh, state Sen. Tom Duane, Councilman Daniel Garodnick and Rep. Carolyn Maloney — said the new accommodation was “wonderful news.”
“Now I can go to shul again,” said Neumann.