Fire-Ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagadol will be Redeveloped into Senior Housing

Posted on: September 8th, 2017 at 5:00 am by

Cherish the old photos. The fire-ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagadol as it once was is finished. Demolition is on the precipice – the job was approved by the city and Landmarks Preservation Commission. Thereafter, plans are afoot for redevelopment of the property into an extension of the senior housing next door.

Not completely a surprise. Rabbi Greenbaum and the Chinese-American Planning Council (senior building at 40 Norfolk Street next door) “embarked on a collaboration” – purportedly before the blaze destroyed the 167-year-old synagogue – to create a development atop Beth Hamedrash that would serve the Jewish and Chinese communities alike. The house of worship would be rehabilitated through the sale of its air rights (estimated pre-fire at some $12 million), and there would be affordable housing and community space. The plans were first revealed to the community back in June during the CB3 Landmarks subcommittee meeting approve the demolition.

Seems the subsequent fire didn’t really deter the partnership.

The LPC approved the demolition, albeit partial, of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol back in July. Most of the existing structure will fall, and the remainder incorporated into the proposed development as memorial or new synagogue building.

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in the 1960s, Photo: Carole Teller

The community will have input on the application next week (September 13) during the CB3 Land Use subcommittee meeting.

Proposed mixed use development by Chinatown Planning Council Housing Development Fund Company including significant additional affordable senior housing on parking lot adjoining Hong Ning senior residence at 50 Norfolk St incorporating 60 Norfolk St, (Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue remaining structure).

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol fell victim to arson; 14-year-old David Diaz allegedly set it ablaze on May 14. He was arrested days after the massive fire and charged with third-degree arson. A day later, though, the minor was reportedly released into parental custody without any charges. Two pals who were with him during the burn job – he allegedly lit a curtain on fire – were considered “witnesses,” according to NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill at the time.

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