Tragedy struck once again this week at the site that once housed the Lower East Side’s Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue.
The Gotham Organization and the Chinese American Planning Council are partnering for a large residential and commercial complex at 60 Norfolk St. The historic shul was destroyed in an arson fire two years ago. Just as crews began to stabilize remains of the synagogue Monday morning, a wall toppled, crushing two construction workers.
One of those workers, Stanislaw Supinski, was killed. His family has hired an attorney and plans to sue the property owner and general contractor.
“In the wake of such tragedies, the first priority is to be there for a grieving family and ask if such a horrendous circumstance could have been prevented,” said attorney Slawomir W. Platta. “The State of New York has very specific regulations which are intended to keep workers safe. (This) system failed the Supinski family. We will do our best to hold the wrongdoers responsible for this unnecessary tragic accident.” As Curbed reported, Platta intends to file a workers compensation claim to retrieve death benefits for the family, in addition to a lawsuit against the developers and their contractor.
Supinsky, 52, lived in Ridgeworrd, Queens with his girlfriend. He was an immigrant from Poland.
Titan Industrial SVC Corp. had approval from the Department of Buildings to perform emergency stabilization work. The developers planned to incorporate portions of the fire ravaged building in the new project. While Gotham will purchase the Beth Hamdedrash Hagadol site, public records indicate it’s still owned by “Beth Medrash Hagodol of New York Restoration, Inc.” Titan was allowed to return to the site this week to demolish what was left of the synagogue’s western facade.
In a statement, Gotham said, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred today during stabilization work necessary to preserve part of the historic remains of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue. Our prayers go out to the families affected by this terrible tragedy.”
AM New York reported:
It was unclear why the workers were so close during the demolition, but fire officials said rescue crews had to pull them from under the rubble, as parts of the building hung on the edge of further collapse. It took minutes for emergency personnel to remove them from the debris. The worker who died at the hospital had gone into cardiac arrest, officials said. Firefighters kept their distance as a stairway was barely holding onto its supports. Pieces of the façade also hung in the balance as Buildings Department officials probed the debris.
In the past month, Community Board 3 approved plans from the developers for two towers on the synagogue site, and an adjacent site owned by the Chinese American Planning Council (CPC). One tower, set to rise 30 stories, will include 488 rental apartments, 75% market rate, 25% affordable. A smaller tower will include 115 affordable apartments for low-income seniors. The complex will also house a new headquarters for CPC and a cultural and educational center for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The City Planning Commission and City Council must give their final approval for the project.
The 1850 synagogue building (originally a church) suffered from years of neglect before it was destroyed by an arson fire in May of 2017. The building, a New York City landmark, was home to the oldest Russian Orthodox Jewish congregation in the United States. While a teenager was arrested in connection with the fire, he was later released and authorities never provided any further information to the community about the loss of one of the neighborhood’s most significant historic buildings.