The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission allowed additional portions of the fire-ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue to be demolished, at a public hearing on Tuesday. After previously securing approvals from the LPC, the developers were seeking additional approvals to remove parts of the ruins on the grounds that they were unstable and would prove dangerous as construction work on a two-tower development around the site made progress.
Most commissioners agreed that the synagogue was beyond repair, and as such, no longer constituted a New York City landmark. Some commissioners felt, however, that it was important that the Commission recognize and commemorate what once stood at the site. The owners of the site have committed to preserving part of the ruins, and several artifacts recovered from the site, however the question before the Commission was: to what extent should the ruins be preserved?
Commissioner Michael Devonshire asked that the development team try to preserve the tower on the west elevation of the former synagogue. Many other commissioners agreed that the remnants of the tower, and the lancet window, painted an incredibly powerful memory of the synagogue.
The Commission agreed as a whole to ask the owners to study the possibility of saving the tower, and the Commission’s staff will work with them where that aspect of the project is concerned. As plans stand right now, a 10-story and 30-story tower will rise around the ruins of the synagogue, and bring nearly 500 new apartments to the Lower East Side, many of which will be affordable units. The project will also have new space for the Beth Hamedrash synagogue, and a permanent home for the Chinese American Planning Council.