As we reported last Oct. 1, the Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue on East 14th Street is for sale for possible development.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing about a potential landmark designation here at 334 E. 14th St. this past March 25. (The LPC will accept public comments until 30 days from this date.)
Preservationists and some local residents want to see the 150-year-old building designated by the city as a protected landmark.
For their part, synagogue members downplayed the importance of the building’s architect during the hearing, as The East Villager reported.
"Synagogue members stressed that landmarking would raise costs just as a plan is underway to modify the structure to better serve community needs through a daycare center, disabled access and L.G.B.T.Q. services," according to The East Villager.
Meanwhile, there's speculation among some neighbors about what might be in the works here. According to one neighbor, the Claremont Group will be developing the neighboring building at 332 E. 14th St., which currently houses Metro Bicycles in the retail space. (Public records list the buyer as an LLC with an address that matches the Brusco Group, an afflilate of Westside Management Corp.)
The neighbor's theory is that the new owners of No. 332 will secure the air rights to the synagogue … or, if the back of the synagogue space is not landmarked, the space can be sold to create some kind of L-shaped residential building.
As evidence of what is possible here, the neighbor points to the battle in Chelsea, where local politicians, preservationists and residents have been protesting a proposed 11-story glass tower that cantilevers over the French Evangelical Church on West 16th Street. "The church's air rights were sold to Einhorn Development Group several months ago in an effort to garner funds to refurbish the ailing 1835 house of worship," per Curbed.
[Rendering of West 16th Street via Curbed]
As the neighbor wrote to the LPC, "Please grant landmark designation to BOTH the front and back buildings of the Town & Village Synagogue, in order to avoid desecration of a religious structure similar to what was done to St. Ann's Church on East 12th Street by NYU's awkward attempt to preserve literally 'a piece of it' in front of a 26-story tower."
Updated 1:56 p.m.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation clarified some facts about what’s possible on the site:
As of now, it’s not known whether the synagogue will be landmarked OR what the new owner of the bicycle shop is planning. We do know, however, that the height of any new development on this stretch of East 14th Street will be capped by the present C1-6A zoning rules. Because of this area’s contextual zoning, the height limit is 80 feet, or roughly eight stories, with a street wall maximum of 65 feet, regardless of whether one purchases “air rights” from the synagogue. These limits would make such a purchase almost certainly pointless.
If the main building of the synagogue were landmarked, but its heretofore-unknown “back building” were not, an L-shaped building conceivably could be built around it — up to 80 feet.
There are a number of differences between this situation and that of the French Evangelical Church on West 16th Street, or of the NYU development behind the old St. Ann’s Church on East 12th Street. One is that neither of those churches were designated New York City Landmarks. The other is that the zoning for those sites allowed much larger development than can take place here. If Town & Village were to be landmarked, an adjacent building would not be allowed to cantilever over the synagogue without the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s review and approval.
Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updated] East 14th St. synagogue on the market for conversion to residential, commercial use
[Updated] East 14th Street synagogue up for sale considered for landmark designation