After 167 Years on the LES, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol is Getting Demolished [PHOTOS]

Posted on: December 7th, 2017 at 5:00 am by

The day we all knew was coming is finally here. Beth Hamedrash Hagadol – ravaged and gutted by fire seven months ago – is ready for razing. It had been sitting with exposed guts for the better part of a year.

The proper permits have been filed with Department of Buildings, and a wrecking crew was dispatched earlier this week to begin the arduous process of careful demolition. Yesterday saw the arrival of a cherry picker squad armed with chisel and jackhammers to dislodge bricks that were first placed here in 1850.

The work is reportedly under careful watch of an engineer hired by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and includes removal of the building walls until at a “stable level.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which bestowed protective status in 1967, approved the demolition, albeit partial, of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol back in July. Unstable portions of the synagogue would be removed, but the preservationist body urged engineers to proceed cautiously in order to save as much of the historic site as possible. Most of the existing structure will fall, and the remainder incorporated into the proposed development.

Said development is a collaborative senior housing project sidling alongside the Hong Ning residence next door at 40 Norfolk Street. The joint effort between Rabbi Greenbaum of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol (it closed in 2007) and the Chinese-American Planning Council was allegedly underway before the destruction of the 167-year-old synagogue, in order to create something that would serve both the Jewish and Chinese communities alike. The original plan was 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 latest proposal was to go before Community Board 3 consideration in September, but was scratched from the agenda.)

Arsonist youths ended that potential with a three-alarm blaze on Mother’s Day last spring. It was reported at the time that a 14-year-old boy allegedly torched it 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.

Recent Stories

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hillman Houses Vandalized with Antisemitic Graffiti

Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Here on the Lower East Side, though, it was apparently occasion for some antisemitism. Someone scrawled an antisemitic message – “fuck Jews” paired with botched swastika – inside the Hillman Houses at 500 Grand Street. The […]

Watch the First Teaser for Upcoming Beastie Boys Doc on Apple+

Yesterday, Apple unveiled the first trailer for its highly anticipated Beastie Boys documentary. It’s a teaser in the truest sense, squeaking by at about thirty seconds. Beastie Boys Story is billed as a “live documentary experience” as told by surviving members Mike D. and Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz. It’s based on the bestselling Beastie Boys Book […]

Mount Sinai Opening Group Clinic on Delancey Street

There hasn’t been a steady tenant at 104 Delancey Street since the Chase Bank closed and consolidated with the branch across the street in 2012. Instead, eight years of pop-up players persisted, from Gagosian (2012) and Hanksy (2014) to Spirit Halloween (2015), All Leather, and Chabad LES. Now, landlord Samy Mahfar is switching it up completely. […]

Onlookers Rush to Lift SUV from Atop Pedestrian on Delancey Street [VIDEO]

Did you happen to see this clip from yesterday evening? An SUV driver purportedly hit a pedestrian on the doorstep of Essex Crossing, in the intersection of Delancey and Norfolk Street. Seeing the accident unfold, several pedestrians rush to the vehicle in order to literally lift it from atop the victim. Apparently her ankle was […]

On the ‘Ground’ with the New Madison Street Soccer Pitch

In the month-and-change since we broke the news, the large-scale indoor soccer field on Madison Street is making quick progress. Transforming a long-vacant commercial warehouse on the edge of Chinatown. Last week, The Ground, which was founded last year around the corner on Monroe, made the expansion official by whitewashing 130 Madison and imparting branded […]