After weeks of demolition activity, the 167-year-old Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue is merely a nub of its former self.
Even before the fire, the house of worship, a crowned city landmark, was long in demise. Its steward, Rabbi Greenbaum, essentially let the place gradually rot since closure of the congregation back in 2007. The flames, sparked by a teenage arsonist, erased the property ten years later.
The demolition work is reportedly under the careful watch of an engineer hired by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and includes removal of the unstable building components. However, marching orders are to save as much of the historic site as possible. Once the property is re-stabilized, plans are in the offing for the Chinese-American Planning Council to convert the fire-scorched property into an extension of the Hong Ning senior housing next door.
The historic Gothic Revival synagogue was built in 1850 as a Baptist church and purchased by the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol congregation in 1885 for $45,000 (about $1.2 million today). In its declaration of landmark status, the Landmarks Commission found in 1967 that “Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest, and value as part of the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of New York City.”