East Village Synagogue Makes Million-Dollar Deal to Stay Afloat

By Serena Solomon on January 29, 2013 8:04am 

EAST VILLAGE — After years of failed development proposals by a tiny East 6th Street synagogue, its congregation has finally brokered a million-dollar lease deal to keep it afloat.

The Congregation Adas Le Israel Anshei Meseritz has signed over the rights to its second floor to East River Partners LLC, as part of a 99-year lease worth approximately $1,225,000, according to documents filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The synagogue at 415 E. 6th St. has pitched numerous development plans over the years, including replacing its 102-year-old building with a new six-story residential structure or selling the property's air rights, according to reports.

But following its inclusion in the recent and controversial East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, which was heavily protested by cash-strapped religious institutions in the area including Adas Le Israel Anshei Meseritz, the synagogue found its ability to develop its building to raise funds had dwindled. 

"We are working with the board with the synagogue to preserve their beautiful building and help them remain in place and help them serve their congregation for many years to come," said Joseph Cohen, a principal at East River Partners. "It is really a win-win for everybody."

He said the lease would most likely result in residential properties, but was unable to comment on when the project might begin or be completed.

Under the deal, East River Partners will not only be responsible for renovating the second-floor space it plans to take over, it will also have to renovate the congregation's worship space at a cost of up to $180,000.

The synagogue will continue to have the right to operate on the ground and basement levels for the duration of the 99-year lease, according to leasing documents filed in August 2012.

The lease on the 6,129-square-foot second floor will cost East River Partners $20,000 annually, on top of a $50,000 non-refundable deposit.

The developers have also been involved in projects such as the SoHo Trump and a luxury condo project at United Nations Plaza.

Other payments totaling $400,000 will also roll in over time from the developers when both the city's Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approve the yet-to-be-revealed plans, the documents stated.

The congregation is intending to "invest proceeds with Merrill Lynch or similar financial management company and will use the interest earned on the investment" for its day-to-day expenses, the documents state.

The regular injection of funds will also help the congregation make "the rabbi position a salaried one," along with financing outreach goals to give the congregation "a higher visibility presence" in the East Village, according to the documents.

The synagogue, through its lawyers Perlman & Perlman, did not respond to a call for comment.

In 2008, after a heated debate within the synagogue, its board of directors finalized a deal with Kushner Companies to demolish its historic building to make way for a six-story building — the first two floors were set aside for the synagogue and the top four would house 10 apartments, according to an article in the Villager.

The developers later backed out of the deal, the paper reported.

Undeterred by the failed plans and dwindling membership, in 2010 the shul's rabbi of 40 years, Pesach Ackerman, told the Villager he still hoped the building's air rights could be sold.

But the designation of 330 buildings along Second Avenue and its adjacent side streets in October 2012 as a historic district snuffed any plans for Adas Le Israel Anshei Meseritz to raise funds through a major development.

Buildings that are either landmarked or fall within a designated historic district cannot alter or repair their facades without approval from the LPC.

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