Landmarks Hearing Tuesday For New Towers at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Site


Developers planning a big new residential project alongside the ruins of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue will go before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission tomorrow.

According to the LPC’s meeting agenda, they have filed an application, “to demolish more portions of the building and integrate the remaining structure into a new modern style apartment building.”

The 1850 building is a historic landmark. Last year, major portions of the structure were demolished after a devastating arson fire destroyed one of the most significant remaining Jewish sites on the Lower East Side. The new project is a partnership between the Chinese American Planning Council (CPC), which owns an adjacent site, and the Gotham Organization.  The new complex at 50-60 Norfolk St. would consist of two towers (10 and 30 stories), 488 apartments (including 188 affordable units), a large new facility for CPC’s social service programs, a new synagogue space for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and neighborhood retail.

Tomorrow’s presentation is expected at 1 p.m., at 1 Centre St., 9th floor. No testimony from members of the public will be allowed.

Gotham Details Plan For Norfolk Street Site; More on That Bogus Rivington House Link

A massing diagram showing the shape and size of the new project was part of last night's community board presentation.

A massing diagram showing the shape and size of the new project was part of last night’s community board presentation.

Representatives of the Chinese American Planning Council (CPC) and the Gotham Organization, a New York City-based developer, outlined plans last night for a huge new project on the site of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol (BHH), the fire-ravaged Norfolk Street synagogue.

During the presentation before Community Board 3’s land use committee, Gotham’s Bryan Kelly said the project at 50-60 Norfolk St. would consist of two towers (10 and 30 stories), 488 apartments (including 188 affordable units), a large new facility for CPC’s social service programs, a new synagogue space for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and neighborhood retail. We reported many of these details in a story published yesterday.

The most interesting part of last night’s discussion concerned the city’s announcement earlier this week of the Norfolk Street housing plan, and the clumsy/deceptive effort by the mayor’s office to link it to Rivington House.

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On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration reneged on a promise made in September of 2016 to create 100 units of senior housing in a new project at 30 Pike St. The commitment had been part of the mayor’s efforts to make up for the bungling of deed restrictions at Rivington House, the former Lower East Side nursing home now in the hands of luxury condo developers.

The unwelcome news was delivered in a press release that also detailed plans to add 60 nursing home beds at Gouverneur Health and to support Gotham’s proposal to create 88 apartments for low-income seniors on Norfolk Street.  The press release read, in part, “The affordable homes and health care for seniors fills a commitment made by the Mayor to replace services lost in the wake of the Rivington House nursing home closure in 2015.”

The mayor attended a town hall on the Lower East Side in May of last year.

The mayor attended a town hall on the Lower East Side in May of last year.

At last night’s meeting, CB3 member Lisa Kaplan said, “We got word day before yesterday that a project that had been promised to us on Pike Street, that the affordable units were now part of (the Norfolk Street project). It looks to me like you were already planning to do senior housing and the project that we were promised on Pike Street just went up in smoke. Tell me that I’m wrong, and why I’m wrong.”

Kelly, Gotham’s executive vice president for development, responded, “I can’t speak to that (Pike Street) development because it’s out of Gotham’s purview, but what I can say is that CPC and Gotham have always talked about the idea of (possibly) including senior affordable housing in our development.”

“Our ability to work out site control with the BHH synagogue has allowed us to identify a footprint where we’re able to create” the senior affordable apartments, said Kelly. Gotham began working with CPC and the synagogue’s leadership before the May 2017 fire that destroyed much of the historic Jewish site. After the fire, they hammered out a proposal for the senior building, incorporating remnants from the burned out synagogue. Gotham has been overseeing the demolition of destabilized portions of the shul. 


This past fall, Kelly said, “we were approached by the city to ask whether we would consider an even more robust program for senior affordable housing… City Hall, through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, has been willing to commit $25-30 million to create 40% affordable housing on this site…”  Initially, Gotham and CPC had intended to build 30% affordable housing in the project. The city’s financial commitment, Kelly explained, allowed them to up the affordable component to 40%.

But Alan Gerson, CPC’s attorney, told board members that Rivington House was never brought up by anyone in the administration. “From the very beginning,” said Gerson, “before we selected Gotham, CPC expressed in the Request for Proposals a clear interest and preference in maximizing affordability, including affordability for senior housing.” He added, “We didn’t learn about the change of the Pike Street project until just about when you learned about it. Our negotiation with the city was for maximum support, period, the end.”

At another point, MyPhuong Chung, chair of the land use committee, voiced her own concerns. “I had a huge concern about the Rivington House linkage that the press has been making,” she asserted. “Now I understand that you’re not involved in that and that the city didn’t come to you and say, ‘Hey, in exchange for Rivington House can you up the affordability or increase the units?’”

She then went on to blame the local media for the misconception, ignoring the city administration’s role in disseminating misleading information in its Tuesday press release. “I’m very glad to hear that,” said Chung, “because it’s kind of how the press has been portraying it.”

She concluded by saying, “I just want to make very clear that our community is in dire need of senior housing, and that adding senior housing to any project does not make up for Rivington House. That was a 200-bed skilled nursing facility. That is a totally different loss (beyond) what any senior housing could ever fulfill.”

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Other notes from last night’s presentation:

–CPC and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol will own their community spaces. Gotham will have a long-term lease on CPC’s property, but the non-profit organization will retain ownership of that, as well. Lease payments will help support Chinese American Planning Council’s local programs.

–The project will include 20,000 square feet of retail on Broome St. (half at ground level, half in the basement). The developer will not lease space in the project to a big box retailer.

–The developers said historic elements from the synagogue are being removed with care for possible future use. The Landmarks Preservation Commission is overseeing the partial demolition.

–CPC’s 40,000 square foot space will house administrative office plus social service programs. Currently, CPC maintains separate offices on Eldridge and Elizabeth streets.

–Dattner Architects, the same firm behind the senior rental building on Essex Crossing site 6, will be designing the new project. One major goal is activating Broome Street, between Norfolk and Suffolk Street, and essentially making the project “seamless” with the surrounding Essex Crossing buildings.

–The site is currently zoned R-8 and is part of a Large-Scale Residential Development Plan. Gotham is seeking to create a new master plan and upzone the parcel to R-9-1. The proposal must go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, and there will be an environmental review.  The Landmarks Commission also must sign off on the development plan.

30-Story Residential Tower Planned Alongside Ruins of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol

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The Gotham Organization is set to go before Community Board 3’s land use committee tonight to unveil plans for a large new development project — built partially on the ruins of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue at 50 Norfolk St.

The proposal includes two buildings, including a 30-story tower on Suffolk Street, right in the middle of the Essex Crossing mega-project. The new plan would add 488 residential units, retail and community space on sites currently owned by the synagogue and the Chinese American Planning Council. The project will cover 576,000 square feet, according to a document filed with CB3 in advance of tonight’s meeting.

The community board questionnaire reveals the following:

–The developers envision a “master-planned project” that would create an “intergenerational community.”

–They’re seeking to change the R-8 zoning on this particular block to R-9-1 and C2-5.


–On the synagogue site, there would be a 10-story senior building, including 88 apartments for low-income seniors. It is presumed that the developers would incorporate what remains of the synagogue, which was destroyed by an arson fire last May. Crews have been demolishing unstable portions of the landmark-protected structure for the past several weeks. The apartments would be available to seniors with annual household incomes between 30% and 60% of Area Median Income.

–On the current Suffolk Street parking lot owned by the Chinese American Planning Council (CPC), there would be a 30-story tower with 300 market rate apartments and 100 affordable units. The affordable units would be reserved for residents earning household annual incomes between 40% and 100% of Area Median Income. Market rate apartments would be offered in a range between $2150/month for studios and $7350 for 3-bedrooms.

–There would be 46,000 square feet for community facilities, including a headquarters for CPC’s social services and a new synagogue for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The two non-profit organizations would own these spaces.

–The developers are looking to participate in several subsidy schemes, including the 420-c and 421-a tax exemption programs.

As we reported yesterday, the mayor’s office is trying to argue that the affordable units in the new Norfolk Street project compensate the Lower East Side community for the loss of more than 200 nursing home beds at Rivington House. This project was in the works long before the city administration seized on it as a potential “Rivington House replacement.”

Tonight’s meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge St.

One more interesting tidbit. The Gotham Organization was one of many developers which bid on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area Project, now known as Essex Crossing. The firm lost out, but the developer is now poised to claim a large chunk of real estate right in the middle of the former SPURA site. If this new project goes forward, the 30 story tower will be taller than any of the Essex Crossing buildings. In creating 488 new residential units, it would generate almost half the number of apartments being built in all of Essex Crossing.

60 Norfolk Development Questionairre by The Lo-Down on Scribd

$2.5 Million Improvement Project Unveiled at Hong Ning Senior Housing Building

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There was a ribbon cutting, complete with the traditional lion dance, at Hong Ning Housing yesterday morning in celebration of the completion of a renovation project at the senior complex at 50 Norfolk St.

The 155-unit building just received a $2.5 million upgrade, including new elevators, a remodeled kitchen, a redesigned lobby featuring hand-painted wallpaper and improved karaoke and activity rooms. Hong Ning was developed in the 1970s by the Chinese American Planning Council. Yesterday’s festivities were led by Wayne Ho, president and CEO of the Chinatown social services organization.

Ho noted that CPC also recently added a Resident Wellness Coordinator to bring new programs to Hong Ning Housing. The project was made possible through a mortgage refinancing initiative facilitated by the federal Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The senior building is right next door to Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the 167-year-old synagogue that was nearly destroyed by fire last month. The Chinese American Planning Council and the synagogue have been collaborating on a mixed use development plan, utilizing a parking lot behind the shul. That plan was to include a restoration of the synagogue, which was abandoned several years ago. Following yesterday’s ribbon cutting, Ho told us he does not yet know the fate of the development plans. He’s waiting to hear the results of engineering studies to determine whether any part of the synagogue can be salvaged.

Report: David Chen is Fired by Chinese American Planning Council

Chinese-American Planning Council Celebrates 50 Years

Chinese-American Planning Council & Time Warner Cable Open Computer Lab

Time Warner Cable officials, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and community activists were on hand for this week’s grand opening at Chinese Planning Council offices on Eldridge Street.

Earlier this week, dignitaries opened a new computer “Learning Lab” at 165 Eldridge Street, the Chinese-American Planning Council’s (CPC) community service center.  The facility was created with a $50,000 donation from Time Warner Cable.  The company has partnered with community organizations in five other neighborhoods to establish computer centers, but this is the first lab of its kind in Lower Manhattan.

The learning lab is outfitted with computers, tablets, e-readers and features high speed internet access.  David Chen, executive director of the Chinese-American Planning Council said the facility will be an important resource in his organization’s ongoing efforts to narrow the “technology gap in our community.”


Chinese-American Planning Council to Host Walkathon for Youth Services

As you may have heard, many of New York City’s youth services are in danger of drastic cuts due to New York state’s budget deficit problems.  On Saturday, the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) will host it’s biannual Walkathon and Family Day Fair.  This year they will be walking to raise funds for their youth programs.