Developers Looking to Destroy More of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol

Posted on: October 1st, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Talk about beating a dead horse. The half-demolished, destabilized structure formerly known as Beth Hamedrash Hagadol might soon lose more of its carcass.

As presented to Community Board 3 in January of this year, the plan is to incorporate the charred synagogue remains into a larger, two-towered development in conjunction with developer Gotham Organization and the Chinese-American Planning Council. Footprint of the new project – an “intergenerational community anchored by neighborhood retail and community facility tenants” – spans the full block of Broome Street from Norfolk to Suffolk Street, and comprises both mid-rise (10 stories) and high-rise (30 stories) pieces. It’ll occupy the parking lot of the Hong Ning senior living next door (managed by CPC) and the synagogue site.

Now, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, under the auspices of Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, is applying to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to remove “portions” of the fire-scorched structure to create a “new modern style apartment building.” (Presumably more of the structure was deemed unstable.) Hearing for this proposal is slated for tomorrow afternoon.

Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagodol was the first American congregation established by immigrants from the Russian Empire, making it the oldest Russian Orthodox house of worship in the country. The historic Gothic Revival synagogue in which it resided 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). The New York City Landmarks Commission found 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.”

Vacant and derelict since 2007, it burned down in a three-alarm inferno on Mother’s Day 2017. While many in the neighborhood still believe the fire was “suspicious,” authorities later arrested a 14-year-old and charged with third-degree arson. A day later, though, the minor was released into parental custody without any charges. His 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.

Recent Stories

Report: Boba Guys Faces Allegations of Sexual Harassment and Racism

Boba Guys, the San Francisco-based tea chain with locations in Los Angeles, New York, and across the Bay Area, is the focus of fresh allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, just weeks after it fired a manager for racist comments allegedly posted to social media in 2018. This runs counter to the public advocacy […]

Ludlow & Hester Nail Spa Fades from its Namesake Block

Just as phase 3 of the city’s reopening gets going this week, one Lower East Side salon won’t be returning. Ludlow & Hester Nail Salon, located at 29 Ludlow Street, closed in March in observance of state guidelines for the coronavirus lockdown. Spa chairs inside the six-year-old spa lingered in the interim, awaiting clientele. Until […]

Watch as Bandits with Crowbars Steal ATM on Ludlow Street [VIDEO]

Bandits are certainly emboldened by the apparent sense of lawlessness around the Lower East Side these days. And Hell Square is no exception. Police say that on May 21, two African American males stole the ATM stationed outside El Sombrero at Ludlow and Stanton Streets. A witness reported seeing the crooks haul the entire machine […]

Mulberry Street Closes, Gets More Outdoor Dining Space

Mulberry Street in Little Italy is now one of several stretches of city roadbed that is closed to car traffic in an effort to support outdoor dining for local restaurants. This comes in light of the extended pause on indoor dining, previously slated to open at half capacity this past Monday. This past Saturday morning, barricades […]

Martin Scorsese Co-Directing Documentary on New York Dolls Singer David Johansen

The life of David Johansen – flamboyant lead singer of the New York Dolls and Buster Poindexter – is now the subject of a new documentary. And it’s co-directed by Martin Scorsese. The treatment will chronicle the singer’s nearly 50-year career, which began as a teenager in the downtown New York City scene of the […]