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Upper West Side synagogue-to-condo conversion highlights larger loss of houses of worship

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Plans to convert the synagogue into 20 condos is moving forward

Via Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

Upper West Side residents’ opposition to plans to convert a historic neighborhood synagogue into condos was dismissed by a State Supreme Court judge last month, the New York Times reports. Locals, mostly from the West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition, had concerns about the scale of the building and its lack of affordable housing. But the judge in the case said their “opposition, as sincere as it might be, is really absolutely irrelevant.”

The issue has once again brought to light what many religious institutions are being forced to do across the city: sell their land and air rights to remain relevant. In some cases, the religious institutions get lucky and get to return in some form to the new structure, as is the case with the Upper West Side synagogue.

That synagogue, known as Shaare Zedek and located at 212 West 93rd Street, wants to sell its land to a developer for $34 million. Last month, plans were unveiled for the conversion: ODA New York will design a 14-story building that will bring 20 condos to the neighborhood along with a three-story space for the synagogue at the base.

Local residents were also trying to landmark the building, but the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected the application saying the structure was not worthy of individual landmark status. As the Times points out, landmarking religious spaces slated for conversions has sometimes worked to its detriment.

The owners of the West Park Presbyterian Church have been struggling to maintain the building, located at Amsterdam Avenue and West 86th Street, since it was landmarked in 2010. At that time, local residents had banded to together to preserve the historic structure as it was poised for a residential conversion, and in that case, local residents prevailed.