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Landmarked Synagogue Seeks Demolition Approval

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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.


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  1. Friends of the Lower East Side have filed multiple violation reports regarding the synagogue’s failure to maintain its landmark building. Now it has come to this. We will vigorously oppose the hardship application.

  2. Ugh.

    Didn’t two synagogues, Roumanian and Young Israel, already try this route, and they’re standing as empty lots.

    I realize the synagogue can’t find the funds to make it a functioning building but this doesn’t seem like a great solution.

  3. You ignore the fact that the leadership of the synagogue has rebuffed several offers that would have preserved it over the past few years. The failed in maintaining it and allowed it to get in the state it is in precisely so that they could apply for hardship.

  4. Demolishing this treasure would be a travesty! The funds will come eventually to renovate this unique building. The “leadership” should not be able to flout the landmarking designation just because they have allowed the building to fall into disrepair – if they get away with this, it will render the entire landmarking process irrelevant and therefore have much wider, negative implications for all historically important structures.

  5. Totally agree with LEsider!

    (BTW, I hate having to sign- in with Disqus -it won’t let me change this old post name above.)

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