Angel Orensanz Hit with Full Vacate Order by DOB; History of Issues Revealed

Posted on: April 2nd, 2014 at 9:20 am by and
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Monday night, just as the Soho Rep group celebrated its springtime fundraiser fete at Angel Orensanz, the interior balcony began to buckle. (Gretchen Mol and Tim Blake hosts) Some 500 gala-goers were quickly evacuated after cracks were discovered in one of the load-bearing balcony columns; reports also indicated that the floor itself began to sag. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The Department of Buildings arrived at 172 Norfolk Street shortly thereafter and issued a vacate order pending inspection. It was upscaled to a “full vacate” order yesterday afternoon, and is now pasted on the door. According to the city agency website, “FLOOR JOIST AT FIRST AND SECOND FLOOR ARE CRACKED AND DEFECTIVE AT NORTH AND WEST SIDES.” FDNY echoed the edict saying that the building is unsafe to occupy.

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Fate of the landmarked 1849 structure is now in the hands of the DOB, which continues to evaluate its stability. Meanwhile, we hear that all weddings and events for the space have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

Sources also tell us that historians, preservationists, architects and engineers have been working closely with the FDNY, LPC and DOB. The building will undergo repairs to address the fissures, including more reinforcements and systems for a safer structure. The incident itself is being called a blessing disguise.

Yet this drama is actually familiar territory for Angel Orensanz. A further scrutiny of public record reveals several similar issues deemed “resolved” by the DOB.

  • 1999 – complaint for sloping stairs and slanted balconies (resolved)
  • 1996 – east apex (Exterior rear wall) was in “danger of collapse” (resolved)
  • 1992 – there was loose brick falling near the back wall (unpointed, meaning no mortar)
  • 1989 – holes in wall, ceiling. Structural stability affected

The Angel Orensanz Center is a landmark synagogue at 172 Norfolk Street, built in 1849 to house the Reform congregation of Anshe Chesed (“People of Kindness”). It was designated as such in 1987, a year after Spanish artist Angel Orensanz purchased the property. Before that acquisition and subsequent restoration, the building had been abandoned.

Here’s hoping the Lower East Side icon is ready to rock and roll in no time.

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Angel Orensanz during “Gossip Girl” shoot, July 2011

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