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UWS Synagogue Will Become Condos, Despite Efforts Of Preservation Advocates

By Jackson Chen | August 10, 2017 6:49pm
 Despite neighbor opposition, Congregation Shaare Zedek will be demolished sometime in January according to the developer.
Despite neighbor opposition, Congregation Shaare Zedek will be demolished sometime in January according to the developer.
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DNAinfo/Jackson Chen

UPPER WEST SIDE — Preservationists looking to save a 94-year-old synagogue from demolition say there's nothing more they can do now that its sale has been approved by a State Supreme Court judge.

“All options were exhausted...it’s a done deal,” said a neighbor who supported keeping the West 93rd Street building, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of alienating their neighbors who may still be continuing the fight.

The Congregation Shaare Zedek, which has held services in the building since 1923, sent an email to its congregants, saying that after the High Holy Days in September it would, "say goodbye to our space," the neighbor said.

Justice Debra James approved the sale of the 212 West 93rd St. building on July 27 and the developer, the Ornstein Leyton Company who bought the property for $34.3 million, is planning to demolish it and create a 14-story condominium development. The bottom three floors will remain for Shaare Zedek and its new synagogue, plans show.

The synagogue’s president, Michael Firestone, has explained in the past that the sale was a necessary financial move as they were struggling with the upkeep of the building.

On top of their maintenance costs on the Upper West Side, the congregation was also responsible for the deteriorating 16-acre Bayside Cemetery in Queens. According to court documents, $18.3 million from the sale will be used for the construction of a new synagogue and $8 million will be set aside for a maintenance fund for Bayside Cemetery.

The congregation reached out to the Ornstein Leyton Company looking for a partner to save the congregation that was stuck with an “antiquated, beautiful, but really nonfunctional place of worship," Scott Leyton, a partner at the company, said.

“We spent a long time in the collaboration on how our building fits their use,” Leyton said of working with Shaare Zedek. “That was really the trick, having a win-win situation in as many places as we could.”

READ MORE: Landmark Historic UWS Synagogue Before It Becomes Condos, Neighbors Urge

Leyton added that they’re planning to create an outdoor space for the synagogue’s second floor and is working with the leadership to try to preserve the stained glass and ceiling fixtures of the current building.

When the news broke of the synagogue’s intention to sell the building last year, residents banded together as the West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition to oppose the demolition of what they considered as a gem of the community.

The coalition went to Community Board 7, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the area’s elected officials, all of which could not help them prevent the demolition. The court decision sealed the building's fate.

Leyton said the demolition is expected to start sometime in January and construction typically takes two years. Shaare Zedek will hold a farewell meeting on September 10 to commemorate the space.