Witnessing the Destruction of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue [PHOTOS]
Chisel and drill are fully deployed to dispense with one of the oldest synagogues in New York City. Beth Hamedrash Hagadol – constructed in 1850 and hollowed out by three-alarm fire last May – is being demolished as we speak. Literally brick by brick.
Each day, the landmarked 167-year-old house of worship (closed and vacant since 2007) is whittled down further, with the wrecking crew sky-high in a cherry picker perch. This is what’s left of the Norfolk Street synagogue as of this morning. Gone is the full north wall.
The demolition work is reportedly under careful watch of an engineer hired by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and includes removal of the building walls until the structure is deemed at a “stable level.” Marching orders are to save as much of the historic site as possible before incorporating the remainder into the proposed development.
Said development would be an extension of the Hong Ning senior housing project next door at 40 Norfolk street. Tentative plans call for the Chinese-American Planning Council to expand the existing residence onto both the synagogue site and its parking lot, aided by the purchase of the neighboring air rights (assessed pre-fire at roughly $12 million). The new construction will likely include significant affordability, and a community center for the Jewish and Chinese communities.
It’s worth noting that this plan was allegedly topic of conversation between Rabbi Greenbaum and the Planning Council before the 14-year-old arsonist torched the building. Not really public knowledge until the Community Board 3 Landmarks subcommittee meeting last July, though.
(The latest proposal for the new development was to go before CB3 consideration this past September, but was scratched from the agenda.)