Department of Buildings staff are back at the Angel Orensanz Center on Norfolk Street today after last night’s evacuation during a performing arts gala. Columns supporting the second level of the 1849 former synagogue developed cracks just as the festivities for beginning. No one was injured.
According to Kelly Magee, Buildings Department press secretary, an inspection revealed “vertical cracks in the floor joist on both the first and second floors.” A full vacate order was put into effect and the Environmental Control Board (ECB) issued a violation. Magee said the vacate order will not be lifted until work permits are approved and the building owner makes repairs.
The Orensanz building is a Lower east Side treasure. The former home of Congregation Anshe Chesed is the oldest surviving building in the city built specifically as a synagogue and it was the first synagogue built in the neighborhood. In 1986, the building was purchased by the Spanish sculptor, Angel Orensanz. His brother, Al Orensanz, has been a constant presence on Norfolk Street all these years, lovingly caring for the landmark-protected structure.
Clayton Patterson, the LES documentarian, said he spoke with both Al and Maria Neri, the events direcror. They’re both fine, but understandably have their hands full figuring out the steps needed to repair the building. The Orensanz Center is a major destination for all types of events, including weddings and high profile fundraisers. No word yet how the center’s calendar will be impacted. Patterson noted that Al Orensanz has put a great deal of work into maintaining the building. He’s completed significant restoration projects in and around the center almost every year since 1986.
We understand Holly Kaye, a preservation consultant and the founding director of the LES Jewish Conservancy, has been assisting Orensanz and Neri in the past several hours. They’re working on getting an architect and structural engineer to the building.
Last night’s event with a celebrity-centric gala for Soho Rep, the highly regarded Tribeca theater company.