Lower East Side synagogue threatened by development

The Seward Park revamp could make preserving the storied temple even more difficult
February 14, 2014 03:55PM

The rabbi at a landmarked synagogue on the Lower East Side that has fallen into disrepair is pushing to preserve it in the face of a massive residential and retail development in the area.

L+M Development Partners is the developer of Essex Crossing, the 1.9-million-square-foot development that is part of the Seward Park urban-renewal project going up on the Lower East Side — an area where the synagogue, Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, has existed for 164 years. Now, experts say the so-called SPURA project will likely raise prices and endanger the house of worship.

Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, who leads the congregation, once tried to have the 60 Norfolk Street‘s landmark status revoked to sell to developers, but ditched that plan to avoid community outcry. The interior of the building is beyond rescue,  according to the New York Landmarks Conservancy, but the outside is remarkably intact, the Wall Street Journal reports. The best course of action now, community stakeholders told the Journal, is to preserve the exterior and convert the interior for another use.

Ideally, L+M will be able to reach a compromise — air rights in exchange for money to restore and maintain the house of worship.

L+M is also developing a seven-story mixed-used building in Harlem. [WSJ] — Angela Hunt