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Down Comes Another Synagogue, Up Go More Condos

Upper West Side

Synagogue to Condo

Century-old Congregation Shaare Zedek will be demolished next year (image via Google Maps)

Aug. 15, 2017

In yet another blow to historic preservationists, a state Supreme Court judge has cleared the way for demolition of a century-old synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to make way for a new high-rise condominium, DNAinfo reports

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," according to a neighbor of the of the 212 West 93rd Street structure. Shaare Zedek joins a growing list of aging buildings – synagogues, parking garages, SROs, mom & pop businesses, gas stations – that are being razed to feed the city’s ravenous appetite for new hotels and high-end apartments.

The Ornstein Leyton Company, which bought the West 93rd Street property last year for $34.3 million, is planning to demolish the synagogue and replace it with a 14-story condominium. The bottom three floors will remain for Shaare Zedek and its new synagogue, plans show. Scott Leyton, a partner in the development company, called the old synagogue building “antiquated, beautiful, but really nonfunctional.”

The synagogue’s president, Michael Firestone, has said in the past that the sale was a necessary financial move as the congregation was struggling with the upkeep of the building and with the cost of maintaining the deteriorating 16-acre Bayside Cemetery in Queens. 

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 pleaded their case before 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.

Demolition is expected to start sometime in January. Shaare Zedek will hold a farewell meeting on September 10 to commemorate the space.

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