Sell or Save: Dual Fates of 75 Essex and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Overshadowed by SPURA Development

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 at 6:01 am by
This image has been archived or removed.

Get on that steed and warn the locals; the carpetbaggers are coming. With the Essex Crossing SPURA project looming in the distance, speculation abounds. How much will Lower East Side property values increase? Will longtime residents be priced out? Who will benefit most? Will the neighborhood character disappear? These are but a taste of questions the impending development is raising.

Also of significance is the fate of some iconic structures that preservationists are desperately trying to landmark before any ground is broken. The race is most definitely on.

The Wall Street Journal shines a light today on Beth Hamidrash Hagadol at 60 Norfolk Street. The city-landmarked synagogue is completely dilapidated and in dire need of some TLC. Back in 2012, Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum tried to pull a fast one by applying to revoke the protective status so that a developer could come in and do some damage. Ultimately, the concerns of the community won out, and Greenbaum had a “change of heart.”

According to a recent analysis funded by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the interior—including painted murals and intricate detailing—is beyond saving. But the outside, with its two soaring towers, elegant steps and arched windows, is “almost surprisingly” stable, said Ann-Isabel Friedman, director of the sacred-sites program at the Landmarks Conservancy.

City Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area, said she is committed to saving the building. One prospect: transferring the synagogue’s air rights to a new development, possibly for affordable housing.

“That that would be a win-win situation,” she said. But “we’re open to all possibilities.”

That is, as long as the “dignity” of the space is preserved, said Rabbi Greenbaum. “No dance clubs.”

Even more interesting is that the Essex Crossing is willing to rehab the landmark for a potential barter of its air rights. That’s what the Journal hears, anyway.

This image has been archived or removed.

Meanwhile, the freestanding Eastern Dispensary building at 75 Essex Street was also mentioned, but in the context of how neighbors are scrambling to save it. There’s currently a grassroots push to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission that this building is worth saving. The landmarks subcommittee of Community Board 3 voted to approve such designation, but still needs ratification from the full board.

The road to save 75 Essex might be more difficult than previously thought. Owner Sholom Eisner had mentioned in a previous interview that he was totally for landmark protection of his building. However, this article quotes Eisner as having flipped his position:

Sholom Eisner, owner of 75 Essex Street, one of the buildings under preservation-commission review, said he opposes its landmarking. “After so many years when the Lower East Side was worthless, it’s finally coming that people can make something on their losses.”

Strap in; it’s gonna get dicey.

This image has been archived or removed.

SPURA outlined, Photo: Wall Street Journal

Recent Stories

Revisit Martha Diamond’s ‘Urbanist Art’ and Life on the Bowery Since 1969

In case you missed Martha Diamond’s show at Magenta Plains on Allen Street back in January, the career-spanning exhibit at the Lower East Side gallery is now online. For a limited time, visitors to independent.org online viewing room will gain access to not just the past exhibit, but also an overview of Diamond’s career. There’s a […]

The Shameful State of Sara D. Roosevelt Park [OP-ED]

The following editorial was written by longtime Lower East Sider and lifelong New Yorker Arthur Karpati. When I moved to the Lower East Side in 1999, I did so because of the dynamic nature of the neighborhood. Long one of the city’s great cultural crossroads—from Chinatown to Little Italy to Loisaida—it has also, in recent […]

Uncapped: The Making of The Unauthorized Biography of Ree 2

Boogie Fam! It sure has been a while. Have you checked out the Bowery Boogie Uncapped (BBU) Podcast? Launched during the pandemic, we are now three seasons deep and chock full of interviews with graffiti pioneers, street artists, Boogie affiliates and most recently, a song debut. You know that country we emancipated from in 1776? […]

Teenager Attacked by Panhandler Asking for Dollar in East Broadway Station

The East Broadway subway station bolsters its reputation as haven of crime this week with reports that a teenager was attacked by an aggressive panhandler. According to police, at 8:15am last Sunday (September 12), an unknown man approached a 16-year-old boy asking for a dollar. When the teenager refused, the suspect followed, and muttered racist […]

Woman Threatens Customers with Stool at King Dumplings on Hester Street

Wednesday evening, a woman was spotted harassing customers at King Dumplings on Hester Street. Our tipster says that the belligerent demanded $10 from the group, and when she was ignored, grabbed a stool and threatened violence. Prior to that incident, the woman jumped on the hood of a livery cab. She also grabbed a person […]