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Development replacing fire-gutted Lower East Side synagogue begins review process

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The project will incorporate the ruins of the 1850 synagogue

A digital rendering of the silver glass and brick facade of 60 Norfolk Street.
A rendering of the proposed 60 Norfolk Street development.
Dattner Architects/Gotham

The land use committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 green-lit plans Tuesday for the mixed-use development set to rise around a fire-gutted Lower East Side synagogue—one of the first steps in the city’s extensive review process.

Developer Gotham Organization is partnering with the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) to erect a dual-tower complex at 60 Norfolk Street that will give rise to nearly 500 apartments, a new synagogue with the remnants of the landmark, and serve as a permanent home for the CPC, a social service nonprofit that has operated in the area for more than 50 years. Small format retail will also be included.

The project, which will erect a 30-story tower on Suffolk Street and a 16-story building on Norfolk Street, will rise on a largely unused parking lot connected to the Hong Ning Housing for the Elderly, a senior affordable housing development run by CPC, and on land purchased from the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue that the nonprofit with continue to own after the development’s completion.

“This is not a land grab by a developer in the Lower East Side,” said Wayne Ho, the president and CEO of CPC, at a Tuesday community board meeting. “We’ll be ground leasing to Gotham as our development partner and that rent will help us sustain and expand our social services in Community Board 3.”

Gotham and CPC are seeking a handful of zoning changes to allow the project, including itweaking the underlying zoning, mapping the area for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), and updating the area’s large scale residential development district to reflect changes to the lot.

The buildings—designed by Dattner Architects—boast 488 rental apartments. Of those, 115 units in the Norfolk building are earmarked as Affordable Independent Residences for Seniors (AIRS), a program launched by the city in 2016 that allows developers to increase the scale of their projects if they dedicate space for the elderly, and 93 units in the Suffolk building that are slated as below-market-rate though MIH. Together, the two buildings make up 208 permanently affordable units with a mix of studios and multi-bedroom apartments for families.

Households earning from $22,410 up to $68,320 are eligible for the AIRS units, while individuals or families making $29,880 at the lower end of the spectrum up to $115,300 would be able to apply for the new units. The remaining 280 apartments are market rate rentals. Cumulatively, tenants will also have access to some 12,600 square feet of outdoor and indoor amenities for a fee, which will be discounted for tenants at the affordable units.

Community board committee members are largely in favor of the project, but raised concerns about the buildings’ bulk and how construction will contribute to the area’s clog of congestion. In their resolution, members urged for an independent consultant to be brought on to mitigate traffic impacts.

One component that garnered universal praise from locals, is the building’s nod to the history of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue with the preservation of the landmark’s remains. Much of the Gothic Revival-style building, built in 1850, was demolished after a 2017 fire ravished the structure that once housed the city’s oldest Jewish Orthodox congregation.

But instead of completely razing the remnants, the builders were able to salvage part of three of the main walls and incorporate the footprint of the space back into the project for the new synagogue and cultural heritage center, along with artifacts that will be displayed in the lobby with signage spelling out their history.

“There’s still the memory of that building so on the ground floor ... the stabilized remnants are going to remain,” said Daniel Heuberger, an architect for the project with Dattner Architects. “The historic remains would be very visible from the street, we think this is a way of meaningfully preserving the memory of the building but allowing it to continue [functioning] as a real space that’s both usable for [Beth Hamedrash Hagadol] and for the wider community as well.”

Community Board 3’s full board will vote on the project on September 26 before the application presses on to the Manhattan Borough President’s Office for review.