Sunday, March 19, 2006

NYC Synagogues going "condo"

Newsday: The Beth Hamedrash Hagodol synagogue is one of New York City's most treasured temples a Lower East Side landmark that has served as a house of worship for Jews dating back to the 1800s. But the future of the 154-year-old building is in doubt. Its walls are cracking. Its ceiling is crumbling. Prayer books are rotting. Sensing a chance to profit, developers have begun to circle the building, offering millions of dollars to turn part of the temple into condos. Resisting such deals has become harder and harder for those charged with running fading temples amid New York's supercharged real estate market. Temples with dwindling congregations forced to maintain large, aging buildings are faced with this difficult decision: to sell or not to sell...In the case of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum has shunned the developers, instead hoping to raise nearly $3.5 million to restore the synagogue. Developers have offered to turn the main part of the building into condos while restoring a sanctuary in the basement. "I'll hang on until the Meshiach comes," Greenbaum says emphatically....On the Upper West Side, the rundown Temple B'nai Israel was demolished recently to make way for an apartment building...the East Village, three temples were converted into residential space.....Two temples in Brooklyn were sold in the last three years. One is now a mosque, and the other was flattened to make way for a yeshiva that was never built. Members of their congregations, including one of the rabbis, have tried to halt the sales, said real estate lawyer Brian Burstin, who represented them. Another Brooklyn temple is being sold for $1.8 million, according to Burstin, who is involved in that case, where the rabbi and a few of his supporters are pushing the sale against member wishes. "They are land grabs," he said. "
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