PERMITS FILED TO REPLACE 94-YEAR-OLD SYNAGOGUE WITH NEW CONDO BUILDING

A developer has filed permits to replace the 94-year-old Congregation Shaare Zedek building at 212 West 93rd Street into a new condo development, according to The Real Deal. The developer, Ornstein Leyton, is planning to build a 14-story building with space for Shaare Zedek on the first three floors. Its 20 apartments would average just under 2,000 square feet each.

The demolition application was filed and approved in November. The new building’s permits are pending zoning approval, according to the Buildings Department.

Michael Firestone, President of Shaare Zedek, said last year that they needed to sell the synagogue to keep up with expenses, including paying for the upkeep of a cemetery in Bayside, Queens. The Real Deal got some of the details of the sale: “Though a deal hasn’t been finalized, Ornstein Leyton plans to take over the ground lease on the property for at least $34.3 million, according to documents filed with the New York County Supreme Court.”

Neighbors have raised alarms about the project, and said the building is historically significant and shouldn’t be knocked down. But the Landmarks Preservation Commission “determined in October that the structure didn’t “rise to the level of an individual landmark,” according to a letter filed with the court.” Neighbors also said the developer was taking advantage of zoning rules that allow for taller buildings if community space is included.

Churches and synagogues throughout the neighborhood and the city have partnered with developers in recent years, using their most valuable asset — their real estate — to fund operations.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 44 comments | permalink
    1. Nathan says:

      No comment on whether this building his worthy of landmark status or whether this development is appropriate. But this quote: “Neighbors also said the developer was taking advantage of zoning rules that allow for taller buildings if community space is included.”

      Yes, they are, in fact, “taking advantage” by including community space in the form of space for the synagogue. Is there something wrong with abiding by the rules? Seems like an odd criticism.

    2. Jake says:

      A shame

    3. Friend of jewish belief says:

      There have been many complaints that the synagogue has not kept up its obligations to maintain the cemetery. There have been numerous reports about this in the newspapers.

      • Michael says:

        Let’s talk about that cemetery and the record regarding this congregation’s disregard for any moral obligation and their expertise at retaining legal council.

        I have lived a few blocks from here most of my life. My first school was across the street.

        My family has had a plot in Bayside Cemetery for over a hundred years ands I recall the forest growing parts of the cemetery in the 1970’s.We paid every bill for care ever sent to us from the first burial for my uncle in as a WW1 soldier to my uncle who passed on my birthday in 1962 to my namesake who was their mother and my namesake.

        I visited last year and only by a miracle was able to both find and reach the plot. The only maintenance was a somewhat worn and modest flag placed on one uncle by the Jewish War Veterans.

        While I understand that this is probably an as of right building and they are entitled to build, they should not use my family and the memory of my family for anything. If they want to properly fund maintenance of Bayside, an independent fund of Bayside stakeholders should be established and unsold plots made available within the original mission of the cemetery to those in need.

      • Eric says:

        The ghoulish desecrations – too upsetting to detail here – that occurred at Bayside Cemetery and the years of litigation connected with the synagogue’s failure to secure and maintain the property are well-covered and well-documented. Within the past decade my wife and I personally spent three days with hedge clippers and tree saws in one small section just to be able to reach the grave of my great-grandfather.

        For years and years the congregation misused funds that, under NYS law, should have been dedicated to the cemetery’s upkeep and NOT for the maintenance of it’s building or other purposes.

        In my opinion, NO DEAL should be allowed to go through without a guarantee that a fund will be created so that Bayside will be properly restored, secured, and maintained in perpetuity.

        The congregation’s horrific disregard for and abysmal stewardship of Bayside Cemetery is a disgrace that MUST NOT be permitted to stand.

        • Paul says:

          Not to appear naive, but Isn’t there some legal recourse that can be taken? There must be some type of State e agency hat oversees cemeteries. What you are describing at Bayfield is shameful.

          • Eric says:

            The litigation has been going on for years and you can read all the documents connected with it online. The synagogue has dragged it on and on by challenging various aspects of it … the standing of the plaintiff, the jurisdiction of the various courts it moved through, etc … never properly addressing its own culpability. An excellent but under-funded organization, the Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries (CAJAC), undertook a modest cleanup and rehab years ago and did great work there.

          • Michael says:

            The history is long, tortured, documented and unflattering except for some lawyers who are very proud of their lawyering skills to provide a result that makes no one proud of their heritage.

            May we make the world whole in our time or at least a few acres in Queens.

    4. Greg says:

      Any idea if the developer will maintain the facade and incorporate it into the new plan?

      • West Sider says:

        It doesn’t look like it. WSR

      • B.B. says:

        Façade cannot remain, as it is not ADA compliant. Once major work begins on any new building that was built before that law took affect it must be brought up to code. There isn’t room for a ramp to be built and once you go down the road of taking away the steps might as well just get shot of the whole thing and start fresh.

    5. JOYCE HELMAN says:

      Shame on them! A beautiful building lost again

      • Eric says:

        Sorry, but this is a very, very typical neo-roman building without any architecturally significant features. The notion that people love walking by it and have a developed a fondness for it does not make it worthy of protection … a protection that comes by taking the drastic step of curtailing the private property rights of the owners..
        As for it being “beautiful” well that’s just an opinion and there are as many of those on the UWS as there are people. There’s no accounting for taste

      • Phoebe says:

        That IS sad, indeed. Why can’t a ramp be placed in front? No, I have not looked at the building in a number of years, but there is a metal ramp for wheelchairs in front of, for example, St. Mark’s Church/. Why is that such a problem? Again, please explain!

      • OhHonestly says:

        So why don’t YOU take up a collection to preserve it? They’re making this change to stay vital as a congregation, not just something pretty for you to glance at for a moment as you stride by.

    6. lou says:

      interesting to see what will happen to St. Gregory site on w 90th st

      • iris agar says:

        I heard that St. Gregory’s may suffer the same fate. Very few people attend mass,
        and the kids parents could not pay the annual tuition for the school. it has a very long
        & rich history! A shame.

    7. GG says:

      I’m OK with this. Sunrise, sunset, ya know??

      Life moves on and things change…oh yeah, and God doesn’t really exist…so there’s that.:) but whatever keeps you getting out of bed in the morning.

      • Inaya says:

        Believe or think whatever you like. There’s no need to insult people.

        Perhaps, though, if you believed in the existence of God, you’d make an attempt at being a nicer person.

    8. Robert Goodman says:

      This is by no means a beautiful building. A dwindling congregation is saving itself. A reasonably sized building is being constructed mid-block across from an architectural monstrosity that nonetheless provides necessary housing for people of modest means. A win all around. I lived in 200 West 93rd for 20 years including the construction time of the public housing building. I’ve attended Shaare Tzedek then and more recently. A larger cleaner mid-block building will improve the physical space on that block.

      • B.B. says:

        I’ll say it again; more than 70% of the UWS is landmarked, in a historical district or some other similar designation. Indeed the knee-jerk reaction from certain sectors of the community to stop something they don’t like is to have a property/area landmarked. That is nor was not ever the intention of that process.

        The so called “Friends of West Park Presbyterian Church” finally succeeded in getting that place landmarked, and look what has happened. The thing is still crumbling apart and has sat shrouded in scaffolding ever since. But the buildings on either side have kept their lot line views…..

        People need to face the fact for it is a fact the United States is becoming a far less religious country. New York City is not immune from this trend, and as such many religions are facing hard choices.

        You cannot keep sixty to near or over one hundred year old properties up with just bake sales and other such events. Many religions are in similar positions as homeowners; they are “house poor”. That is to say the sole asset with any value is their property.

        Many of these big barns of houses of worship were designed/built for or in another era. A time of large active congregations with equally large families. Pick a faith and go by their house of worship on Sabbath; most are half full to nearly empty. The only time many bother going near is when they want something (marriage, birth or death are the top three), otherwise they cannot even be bothered sending an envelope.

        Shaare Zedek is paying off their ground lease (a very good thing), getting a brand new modern building that someone else is building and likely will in whole or part maintaining, *and* have something extra left over for future. All and all not a bad outcome.

    9. Pedestrian says:

      Religious entities have no right to profit from their real estate! They had no investing time expectations when the properties were purchased and, mor importantly, THEY HAVE PAID NO REAL ESTATE TAXES!

    10. Phoebe says:

      Strange that the UWS is getting a 20 story building but West 68-ish is possibly slated to get over double the stories. I don’t get it. Someone please ‘splain it😑

      • Mark says:

        The UWS is a more residential neighborhood.

      • B.B. says:

        Zoning for the rich deep heartland of UWS is different than Lincoln Square ( 200 Amsterdam).

        Parts of Lincoln Square have zoning more in line with Mid-Town than the low rise (five to six stories) to possibly 15 story buildings of UWS above say West 72nd. Also midblock lots normally are zoned for less density as opposed to corners.

    11. Leona says:

      Enough!! We are sick of the condos! They’re an eyesore. Developers/greed are robbing this city of personality.

      • Chrigid says:

        Leona, reading BB’s comment from last evening, all I could think is that your eyesore condos are our punishment for being irreligious. But would anybody’s deity be that mean?

    12. CJ says:

      The synagogue has over a dozen large and beautiful stained glass windows and is, indeed, architecturally significant.

      Moreover, this deal will award roughly 250K in profits per family in the small congregation. In other words it will be a windfall for Shaare Zedek, and most undeserved, given the synagogue’s criminal record of not maintaining Bayside Cemetery, as thoroughly documented here: http://baysidecemeterylitigation.com/Home_Page.php

    13. Barbara Buloff says:

      As an abutting neighbor to this synagogue and someone who values the residential ethos of the neighborhood, I object to the demolition and building of yet another modern condo in this area.
      I also know that this synagogue has incredible beauty within
      and it is a tragedy that quality is being being sacrificed for profit.
      Hopefully the zoning board will realize how our neighborhood values will be compromised by this project.

    14. Larry says:

      This is typical in the USA. Only money and greed for more money. People do not count.

      • OhHonestly says:

        A congregation sells its one asset to pay the bills. This is what you call greed?

    15. KSF says:

      NO NEW BUILDING WILL EVER WARMLY EMBRACE THOSE WHO ENTER IT LIKE THE OLD ONES DO….

      TOO BAD…

    16. KSF says:

      LANDMARKS NEEDS TO WAKE UP TO PRESERVING BUILDINGS THAT ARE TOUCHSTONES IN A COMMUNITY–EVE IF SOME ACADEMIC CRITERIA ARE NOT FULLY MET.

      NEIGHBORS NEED TO ORGANIZE AGAINST THIS V. JUST GROUCH. GET THE RIGHT ATTNY AND YOU WILL ACHIEVE WHAT YOU WANT: PERHAPS EVEN FORCE THE IGNORANT DEVELOPER TO ENCAPSULATE THE BUILDING / SYNAGOGUE , THE WINDOWS AND THE BEAUTY WITHIN INTO A WHOLLY NEW PLAN… OTHER COMMUNITIES HAVE SUCCEEDED–AND YOUR CAN ALSO! NOTHING IS ACCOMPLISHED BY MOANING AND COMPLAINING: JUST GET ORGANIZED, SET UP A FIND FOR EXPENSES, HIT THE NYC PRESS HARD–AND GO TO WORK!

      • Jay says:

        Your caps lock is on and your rhetoric is tired.

        • GG says:

          I know you are all conservative and Republican and all that but I am really starting to like you.

          You are kinda new around here and I must admit that I have been enjoying your contribution. Anyway, just sayin’

          • Jay says:

            You’re nuts if you think I’m either a conservative or a Republican. I’m also not new around here…

    17. Howard Freeman says:

      I’m starting to wonder about the effect on the human psyche of the cityscape changing from spires and sacred façades (stained glass, imagery, iconography, etc.) to luxury residences that are usually impersonal or, if not, are individualized like–as much as I like it–Mercedes House or 56 Leonard.

      NYC is becoming a culture of persons, not people. And the cityscape belies a self- rather than an other-focus.

    18. Diane says:

      My question is, who is going to buy a condo that shares a street with one of the most crime ridden housing projects? not me.

    19. iris agar says:

      I grew up in this neighborhood, and I can’t
      believe that they are taking down synagogues and church’s. Slowly, slowly all the tradition & character that makes the UWS
      what is is, and has been for decades is
      fading. Very sad.