CORAL SPRINGS, FL – For years, Orthodox Jews have walked over a small bridge on their way to a synagogue on University Drive near downtown Coral Springs – a convenient crossing that spared them hours of walking, especially on the Sabbath and high holidays when they aren’t permitted to drive.
But soon, access to the green bridge across from the Chabad of Coral Springs center may be cut off.
The owner of a house whose property is connected to the entrance of the bridge has been approved by the city of Coral Springs to build an aluminum fence that would essentially prevent people from using the bridge.
The approval of the fence permit at 9351 NW 39 Court has angered many Orthodox Jews, as well as joggers, service workers, and other residents who use the bridge leading into the Coral Springs Hills neighborhood, residents said.
“This is so mean and unnecessary,” said Brad Horwitz, 67, a member of Chabad who moved to the neighborhood with his wife, Sara, 15 years ago just to be in walking distance of their synagogue.
More than 80 people in the community have signed a petition asking the city to reconsider the fence permit. Those against the fence have reached out to city commissioners and the city administration.
Coral Springs City Manager Frank Babinec said the city has no legal recourse to stop the property owner from building the fence. He said the community may need to take civil action to find a solution.
The bridge has been around since the early 1970s when the developer of the subdivision built it, Babinec said. Back then, residents often rode their horses over it on their way to stores and post office.
The property is owned by Jose and Altagracia Chavez, according to property records. The owners could not be reached at home for comment on Wednesday. The owner of the fencing company, Xtreme Fence of Florida, also could not be reached for comment.
Sara Horwitz, 62, said nearly 100 people use the bridge on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, including many senior citizens and at least one person in a wheelchair. If the fence goes up and people can’t access the bridge, they’ll have to walk up to two-to-three miles on side streets to reach the synagogue at 3925 North University Drive.
“They are stopping us from going to our house of worship,” she said.