Roumanian Synagogue Buiding, 70 Hester, is Sold
Every old building on the Lower East Side has a few stories to tell. 70 Hester Street has more than most. It was built in 1860 as the original synagogue of the First Roumanian-American Congregation. For the past 45 years, it’s been the home (although in recent years not the primary residence) and studio of artists Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins. Now, the New York Times reports, the building has been sold and its occupants have been given eviction orders.
The purchase price and buyer have not yet been disclosed. Brown Harris Stevens listed the unique property on its web site for $3.9 million:
…After the congregation moved to a new location, 70 Hester went through a number of uses, including a speak-easy. This commercially zoned building offers many opportunities. Located outside of the historical district, zoned C6-2, the max allowed FAR is 6.02 with maximum usable floor area of 11,288 square feet makes this desirable for a developer. But for the buyer who wants to renovate and own a piece of significant New York history, this dramatic synagogue is worth the restoration and would make a remarkable space for residential, business or commercial use. Delivered vacant.
So the big question now? Does the new owner plan to restore or develop the property. The Times writes:
The narrow, two-story space still has a U-shaped women’s gallery and a stained-glass window over the wall on which the ark was situated. Two octagonal skylights dimly enhance what little daylight reaches the space through vaguely Moorish arched windows. Gas jets poke out of the walls. Scraps of prayer books still turn up in crevices.
The building is not a New York City landmark. As people in this neighborhood are well aware, the Roumanian Synagogue’s second building, at 89 Rivington Street, collapsed in 2006. An empty lot remains six years later.
Incidentally, Nozkowski and Robins’ son, Casimir Nozkowski, is working on a documentary film recounting the family’s last days at 70 Hester Street.