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Advocates Push to Landmark 14th St. Synagogue in Face of Development

 Town & Village Synagogue is hoping to expand its current space to keep up with its growing congregation.
Town & Village Synagogue is hoping to expand its current space to keep up with its growing congregation.
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STUY TOWN — Advocates are pushing the city to landmark the Town & Village Synagogue, after news broke recently that the building was for sale.

Town & Village is outgrowing its longtime home at 334 E. 14th St. and hired a broker to either sell the building or find an investor who could develop and enlarge it — sparking fears the historic structure could be demolished.

Advocacy groups including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation recently wrote a letter to Robert Tierney, chairman of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, urgently requesting that the building be protected through landmarking.

“Now with this proposal out there to potentially sell and demolish the building, it’s very important that the commission gives its full consideration while the opportunity still exists,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the GVSHP.

“It’s a striking building, and we certainly believe it deserves its day in court.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has taken the first step of "calendaring" the historic building, which means that the Department of Buildings cannot issue a construction permit for the site without LPC review first, according to LPC spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon.

The LPC will hold a public hearing on landmarking the building on Oct. 29, and the next step would be for the commission to take a vote.

The domed 14th Street worship space was originally designed as a German Baptist church in 1866, on the edge of Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany, according to the book “The Synagogues of the Lower East Side.” It became home to the Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church in 1926, before it was converted to a synagogue in 1962.

The LPC previously considered designating the building as a landmark in 1966, but it was never voted on, Berman said.

De Bourbon could not immediately say why the vote on landmarking the synagogue never took place.

Town & Village did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic District Council, also signed the letter to the LPC and called the building "a remarkable survivor."

"It’s got fantastic architecture, and culturally it’s an important building for the community," Bankoff said.

“We want the Landmarks Preservation Commission to finish the job and actually protect the site so that any development on the site will be respectful of it.”

Berman said landmarking the building wouldn't necessarily hamper Town & Village's development plans.

“The synagogue can still expand, make additions or create new rooms, while still preserving the building’s facade,” Berman said. “We think a win-win could be achieved here.”