The locks were changed and a legal possession notice was posted today at 3 West 16th Street — marking the long-fought eviction of the Sixteenth Street Synagogue from its home of 67 years, The Real Deal has learned. The eviction paves the way for the building’s owner, Jack Braha, to transform the six-story, 15,368-square-foot property into luxury rentals.
“They’re now officially out,” said Braha of the Modern Orthodox synagogue, which for years has found itself in the unfortunate predicament of being caught between two feuding developers, Braha and Steven Ancona.
Braha said that the synagogue’s books and Torahs are still inside, but that congregation officials can arrange to collect those and other items left in that space.
The developer noted that the apartments on floors three through six are slated to hit the market this spring. Meanwhile the second floor unit is expected to come online this summer. A 1,200-square-foot commercial unit on the first floor is available immediately; another portion of that floor will be transformed into a residential lobby. The residential units will occupy an entire floor, and will contain three bedrooms, three bathrooms and 12-foot ceilings. Asking rents are not yet available, Braha said.
The Modern Orthodox congregation was originally scheduled to be evicted on Jan. 7, but received a temporary stay of eviction pending its claim that it had a one-third ownership stake. However, judges denied the synagogue’s interim stay of eviction.
“We will regroup one way or the other,” said Richard McBee, president of the Sixteenth Street Synagogue. “This will not be our demise.” McBee said that he is exploring other legal options, though he’s unclear what they may be. For now, he said, the congregation will hold services at other locations, but has yet to find a permanent space in the area. “It’s a bad neighborhood to be in to find a new home,” he said, noting the congregation has a tight budget.
This week, the synagogue’s Sabbath services will take place at NYU’s Bronfman Center at 7 East 10th Street.
Braha has asserted that if he receives alleged missed rent payments, the synagogue can have its space back, however McBee has previously said that this is nothing beyond what Braha has proposed during litigation and that it is out of the synagogue’s control.
“Until they respect the order, there’s nothing to discuss,” Braha said of the eviction.
“It’s not like this is a shock,” McBee said of the eviction, “it really is a disappointment.”
There’s an online petition that went live last week and now has 1,052 signatures imploring Braha to stop the eviction and to have the synagogue stay at their longtime home.
In an act of protest, some 15 congregants braved the frigid weather — and held mid-day prayers outside the locked space.