Teen Accused in Synagogue Fire Returns to Courthouse; No Case Filed Today

Fire at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, May 14. Photo by Richard Brennan.

Fire at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, May 14. Photo by Richard Brennan.

A teenager arrested in connection with a fire that decimated the historic Lower East Side synagogue, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, was back in family court this morning. The New York City Law Department, which handles juvenile cases, once again today declined to file charges.

The 14-year-old boy was arrested two days after the fire broke out and brought into the 7th Precinct. The NYPD anticipated filing third degree arson charges against the boy. He was taken into custody after police reviewed surveillance video that showed three young people fleeing the scene shortly after the blaze started in the abandoned building.  The teen was released into the custody of his mother May 18.

In his second court date this morning, the Law Department was expected to inform the suspect whether a case would be filed and referred to a family court judge. In a statement received a short time ago, a department spokesperson said, “We are continuing our investigation into this matter. If we file charges on a future date, a press statement will be issued at that time.”

The 167-year-old building is a New York City landmark and one of the most significant synagogues on the Lower East Side. At the time of the fire, the rabbi and leaders of the Chinese American Planning Council say they were finalizing plans to restore the synagogue and build a new mixed-use project on an adjacent parcel. Inspectors this week hope to determine if any part of the synagogue can be saved.

Click here if you would like to read more about the process for dealing with juvenile defendants in New York City.