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New York, NY - Demolition Plans Looming For Fire-Ravaged Landmark Lower East Side Synagogue

Published on: June 19, 2017 12:30 PM
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Firemen spray the burned Beth Hamedrash synagogue in New York City, U.S., May 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney Firemen spray the burned Beth Hamedrash synagogue in New York City, U.S., May 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney

New York, NY - Just weeks after a landmark Lower East Side synagogue was torched by a teenage arsonist comes word that the rabbi of the iconic shul has filed plans for its demolition.

As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2qsgwOk), flames tore through Beth Medrash Hagadol on May 14th.  Within days, police arrested a 14 year old boy in connection with the fire and are still seeking two accomplices who were observed at the scene of the crime on surveillance video. 

The synagogue had fallen into disrepair and had been unused for years and nearby residents said that teens from a nearby high school often entered the locked building, setting a small fire there just days earlier.

Lower East Side news site The Lo-Down (http://bit.ly/2sKbtun) reported that the synagogue’s rabbi, Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, has filed an application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to have the building demolished due to the extent of the damage caused by the fire. 


Inspectors have not been able to enter the rubble filled synagogue located at 60 Norfolk Street. According to Rabbi Greenbaum, based on an external examination of the synagogue officials at the Department of Buildings are extremely concerned about the stability of the structure, particularly the two massive front towers whose masonry appears to have been seriously compromised when the building’s roof collapsed. 

An independent contractor hired by the synagogue reached similar conclusions.

This is the second time that Rabbi Greenbaum has filed paperwork to demolish the troubled synagogue which sits on an extremely valuable piece of property.  With the shul’s membership dwindling and the 167 year old building in need of millions in costly repairs, Rabbi Greenbaum filed a similar application in December 2012, hoping to build condominiums on the site, pulling the application three months later in the hopes of finding a partner to help him fix up the synagogue.

Beth Medrash Hagadol was reportedly working on a restoration plan with the Chinese American Planning Council, which owns an adjacent property, at the time of the fire.

Rabbi Greenbaum’s application will be heard at an Landmarks Commission Community Board 3 subcommittee meeting on Tuesday night and will be up for a second hearing by the Landmarks Committee on July 11th.

Should the demolition be approved, the site could become home to a building as large as 45,000 square feet which Rabbi Greenbaum hopes would include a small basement synagogue in tribute to the majestic shul that graced the site for generations.

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