Followup: Jewish Conservancy’s Work to Preserve Norfolk Street Synagogue

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.

Earlier this week, we published a story about the future of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the landmarked synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street.  The synagogue’s rabbi, Mendl Greenbaum, has been looking for developers interested in purchasing and restoring the run-down building, while providing some space in the facility for religious services.  The story made reference to efforts by the LES Jewish Conservancy to help the rabbi secure public funds for the building’s rehabilitation.  Today we have a few more details about the Conservancy’s advocacy on behalf of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol.

  • Former City Councilman Alan Gerson earmarked $750,000 in capital funds for the synagogue’s preservation in 2006.  Those funds were rescinded as the economic downturn set in two years later.  Rabbi Greenbaum had been in the process of applying for non-profit status with the state, a requirement of the city grant.  The recession forced the city to pull back on any projects that had not already begun.
  • In late 2008, the Conservancy was awarded a  planning grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.  The grant enabled it to hire Li -Saltzman Architects, a well-known preservation firm, to conduct a comprehensive study of the building and to develop architectural plans for restoration.  It was an 18-month undertaking.  In the past month, the Conservancy noted, the rabbi asked for access to those plans.
  • Last year, a New York state Historic Preservation matching grant of $230,000 was turned down by Rabbi Greenbaum. According to the Conservancy, he chose not to accept the grant “due to the lack of an existing match” and because of a number of restrictions the synagogue would have been required to honor if the funds had been accepted.