Landmarked Synagogue Seeks Demolition Approval

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.
Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.

There’s big news tonight concerning Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the historic synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street.  The leadership of the shuttered site has filed an application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeking permission to demolish the building to make way for a new residential development.  Their proposal calls for a mixed-use complex with a new synagogue on the ground floor.

Commission spokesperson Elisabeth De Bourbon confirmed a short time ago that the application has been received, and that LPC staff would be reviewing it.  When that process is complete, the matter will be brought before the full commission. Beth Hamedrash Hagadol was declared a city landmark in 1967.  In recent years, fire, water damage and a failure to maintain the building have all contributed to the building’s degradation. Rabbi Mendl Greenbaum made the decision to close the synagogue four years ago.

This past summer, Rabbi Greenbaum told us he was attempting to find a developer willing to restore the building but, given the tremendous investment that would have been required, he was not optimistic.  Here’s a portion of the application submitted to the LPC:

The application notes that the site at 60 Norfolk Street could accommodate a building of up to 45,000 square feet.  No details are given about the proposed building to be constructed where the synagogue now sits.

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol is the oldest synagogue of Russian Jews in this country.  It was built in 1850 as a church.  We first became aware of the Landmarks application earlier today, after Simeon Bankoff, head of the Historic Districts Council, advised fellow preservationists about the proposal. In the past preservationists have expressed disappointment that more was not done to save the synagogue from falling into a state of disrepair.  You can read more about that in our previous story.

Click here to have a look at the full application.