Thanks to SPURA, the Lower East Side is seeing an influx of interested developers, and one landmarked building is trying to cash in on this in order to save its crumbling structure. The Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street has been closed for four years due to structural safety reasons, and the historic building is in a sad, neglected state. Rabbi Mandl Greenbaum has tried, unsuccessfully, to raise money to restore and reopen the 160-year-old synagogue as a community resource, but for a variety of reasons (which the Lo-Down outlines here), all campaigns for a renovation have failed.
Now, as a last resort, Greenbaum is turning to real estate developers in hopes of converting the synagogue into a residential building with a small sanctuary or religious school. But because the building has fallen into such a state of disrepair?the roof leaks, several windows are blown out, there are visible holes in the brick walls, chunks of the ceiling have collapsed?developers are scared away by the amount of work and money it would take to save the structure. Greenbaum speculates that repairs would cost well over $4.5 million.
Several community historians and preservationists are distressed with how Greenbaum has dealt with the synagogue over the last several years, saying that he has refused to consider alternate plans to raise money. "The leadership of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol has refused to consider alternate income-producing use for the building, while retaining the synagogue downstairs?perhaps a cultural and performing arts center or a kosher catering hall?preferring to neglect the structure to the point of imminent collapse," said Joyce Mendelsohn. Another preservation activist even filed a complaint about the state of the building with the Landmarks Preservation Committee back in February, but she has yet to hear anything back.
For a more detailed history of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, click through to the Lo-Down.
· Rabbi Seeks Partners For Restoration & Reuse of Distressed Norfolk Street Synagogue [Lo-Down]