More on Yesterday’s Fatal Wall Collapse at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol

Posted on: October 22nd, 2019 at 5:02 am by

Photo: @nycemergencymgt

Yesterday morning, the surviving south tower of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol wreckage site collapsed, killing one construction worker and seriously injuring another.

“A worker who leaves for a job site in the morning deserves to come home safely every single night,” Mayor de Blasio wrote in his “thoughts and prayers” Tweet in the afternoon.

It was a worst-case outfome that city officials feared, basically since the house of worship was torched more than two years ago.

Indeed, this south tower was already deemed not structurally stable back in June. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved demolition plans at the time, which city officials had hoped to incorporate into the new luxury development planned for the site. City engineers had surveyed the wreckage and concluded that the tower was simply too badly damaged to remain standing, and that it’s a “public safety risk.”

The Beth Hamedrash Hagadol structure dated back to 1850, when it was erected as a Baptist church. The synagogue took over three decades later. It became one of the first city landmarks, receiving designation in 1967. It fell into dormancy and disrepair over the last decade. A teenage arsonist named David Diaz set the three-alarm blaze in May 2017, but for reasons unclear, was released from custody and not charged by NYPD.

In the wake of yesterday’s incident, FDNY requested a structural stability inspection from Department of Buildings, according to public records.

Also, per Curbed:

A preliminary DOB investigation determined that there is no imminent danger of further collapse, but an assessment of the site’s structural stability by the department’s Forensic Engineering Unit and the Construction Safety Enforcement Unit are still ongoing, according to DOB spokeswoman Abigail Kunitz. Out of an abundance of caution, officials ordered the contractors to remove masonry bricks from a partially collapsed arch window, located in the building’s tower 36 feet above street level. DOB is coordinating with the contractors at the scene to develop a plan. That work will be performed today using lifts under the supervision of city engineers.

As previously reported, the new development at 60 Norfolk spans the block of Broome Street, and is composed of two sky-scraping towers. The first is a 16-story mid-rise (up from ten in the original plan) with 115 affordable apartments for seniors and a 4,000 square-foot commercial condo for Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, both as sanctuary and a Jewish cultural heritage center that can be converted to office space in future. This is built atop the ruined site and, until yesterday, was to incorporate elements of the synagogue.

The second contiguous building is a 30-story high-rise with 25% affordable units and a portion of space dedicated to the new flagship headquarters for co-developer Chinese-American Planning Council (owner of the Hong Ning residence next door). It’s built on the parking lot owned by the organization.

Given this latest tragedy, it’s unclear whether there will be updates to either the design or timetable to completion.

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