LPC to Rescind Landmark Status of Demolished Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Site

Posted on: June 11th, 2020 at 5:00 am by

Hollowed out by fire exactly three years ago, the Norfolk Street lot that hosted Beth Hamedrash Hagadol for over a century is closer to being de-landmarked. Another step toward massive re-development.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission reportedly voted last month to calendar a rescission vote for 60 Norfolk Street. Meaning, tearing down the protective designation that had been in place for decades, as there is no longer any architectural, historic, or cultural significance onsite.

These types of votes are apparently rare at the LPC, which will hear the case on June 30.

After the fire, May 2017

Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagodol was the first American congregation established by immigrants from the Russian Empire, and was the oldest Russian Orthodox house of worship in the country. The historic Gothic Revival structure it occupied 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 1967 landmark designation, the LPC 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.”

Membership dwindled over the decades, and the shul finally shut in 2007. Current Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum left the property exposed to the elements, holding out for potential redevelopment. To that end, six years later, he petitioned the city to remove the protective status, but retreated.

Dec. 2010

In May 2017, a teenaged arsonist torched Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The three-alarm fire was nearly absolute in its destruction, leaving behind one tower and a mountain of rubble. (It took another two years, and the death of a construction worker, for cleanup to complete.)

And a chance for new development.

Photo: Dattner Architects

In April, Dattner Architects filed paperwork to construct the two-tower development known as GO Broome, which sits adjacent to the wall of new buildings that is Essex Crossing. The filing came weeks after City Council approved the rezoning of this parcel to accommodate such a large mass of real estate.

It’s composed of nearly 520,000 square-feet, spread across 488 apartments, commercial retail, and community facilities. Of the unit tally, 115 residences are affordable housing for seniors. There is also a 4,000 square-foot commercial condo for Beth Hamedrash Hagodol.

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