Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reactions to the landmarking of Town & Village Synagogue on East 14th Street

[Image via Manhattan Sideways]

Yesterday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to give the Tifereth Israel Town & Village Synagogue at 334 E. 14th St. landmark status.

The LPC excluded from the landmark designation a rear structure here between First Avenue and Second Avenue that had originally been considered as part of the landmark designation.

Here's reaction to the decision... first from Marianna Mott Newirth, president of the Town & Village Synagogue:

Town & Village Synagogue is a community and a building.

We are an active, egalitarian Conservative Jewish congregation serving Lower Manhattan with pride. We recognize the LPC’s designation of our building and honor the work that has been done by both the Bloomberg and the DiBlasio administrations to carefully review and deliberate on our status. Their decision is a testament to our building’s rich immigrant ​history in NYC.
​Our commitment remains: to serve the 400 families who are the core of T&V and to support the greater community of which we are a part. We look to the men and women who championed Landmark designation to continue their loving support of Town & Village Synagogue. May we work together to strengthen this building so that it will be a beacon of spirituality, a center of Jewish learning and a jewel on 14th Street for current and future generations of New Yorkers.

She went on to tell us that that the building was taken off the market early this year. "We are not selling. We are not moving."

And here's a comment via Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:

"It's wonderful that after nearly half a century, this venerable piece of our city and our neighborhood’s history will finally receive the recognition and protection it deserves and which we fought so hard for.

"We are disappointed that the Landmarks Preservation Commission excluded [the rear structure] from the designation and believe that their doing so was unnecessary. The Commission could have landmarked the entire site and still allowed construction in the rear, but with designation of the entire site they would have ensured that any new construction did not detract from the valuable historic character of this 150 year old religious edifice."

DNAinfo has coverage of the landmarking here.

Previously on EV Grieve:
[Updated] East 14th St. synagogue on the market for conversion to residential, commercial use

48 years later, East 14th Street synagogue to be considered for landmark designation

[Updated] Tifereth Israel Town & Village Synagogue faces landmark designation today


Anonymous said...

Great news! I love this building. It adds so much to the block, the street, the neighborhood. It's already been with us for a century and a half ... so glad it will stay with us. Kudos to GVSHP for seeing it through.

Pinch said...

According a statement LESPI posted on Facebook, not Landmarking the rear building was due to the congregation REQUESTING that it not be Landmarked; not sure about the veracity of this...I'd be interested to hear a response from others involved in the process.

Anonymous said...

Yup, that's true! The LPC could have designated the back, AND let them tear it down and replace it -- but then there would have been oversight over the replacement. Now there is not. Let's hope if the congregation does tear that down and build anew, the new building will be in architectural harmony with the rest. Please Lord!

Anonymous said...

Pinch, as you pointed out, the exclusion of the back building was a "COMPROMISE". That is a direct quote from the newly appointed Chair. Apparently, the function of the LPC is not only to preserve architecture and culture in NYC, but also making friends. The Chair also admitted to having visited the Synagogue herself, so it is obvious she was being lobbied hard, to feel that a "compromise" should be reached. This is as corrupt as it gets. Thanks for the new Apointee DeBlasio.

Anonymous said...

If the president of the congregation expressed disappointment at the rear building not being landmarked, I sincerely doubt that the congregation requested this... just makes sense... I don't have any insight to the actual reasons, but it's clear to me the congregation did not request this.

Anonymous said...

No, it's the Preservation society that expressed disappointment that the rear wasn't landmarked, not the synagogue pres. Read closely.

Pinch said...

Looking at the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative's post from this morning on their Facebook page, it states "As requested by the congregation, LPC excluded the property's south half facing E 13th Street."

Anonymous said...

Pinch: Perhaps you would like to get the congregation out of the building and indeed out of the neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the congregation requested a compromise, and considering the fact that 95% of the building behind the facade has been modernized and has no architectural significance, the only thing that should have been considered is the facade. Now, NYC has saddled the hard working members of the congregation with the task of maintaining the building under landmarks supervision, and eliminating the potential for growth. All this for people who worked hard to buy the property over 50 years ago. Is it fair to landmark it now, instead of when it was being sold ? or are people just knee jerk reacting to development on the LES and victimizing an institution that has dome nothing but good for the community ? IMHO, institutions like the "Prservation Society" should be obligated to provide alternate sites and buildings if they feel they should be able to take away the rights of others.

Anonymous said...

The Preservation Society didn't take anyone's rights away -- it made a case to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, just like the congregation did. With the support of hundreds of letters from the community, by the way. Then the Commission made a decision. Its decision prevents the congregation from "taking something away" from the neighborhood: A big chunk of our collective history.

In terms of looking back at when the building was sold to the congregation -- they could have/should have known at that point that the building was initially put on the Commission's calendar back in 1966! It's been considered potentially landmark-worthy since then...they just never got around to voting. Finally they did.

Pinch said...

Anonymous 10/29 9:11PM...I simply stated a fact related to a detail that had been discussed over the course of following the Landmarking process of the Synagogue; you incorrectly interpreted my purpose for doing so.

Anonymous said...

The congregation bought the building before 1963, and I doubt that those hundreds of letters came from members of the congregation. What right do you think you have to hold sway over property that you don't own ? Sounds pretty fascistic to me.

Anonymous said...

According to the NY Times, St. Patricks Cathedral was recently renovated at a cost of $175 MILLION dollars, which is roughly $3000-4000/sf (same pricing as 1 West 57th St, or 432 Park, the uber-luxury new condos for billionaires.)

Do you really think a nice middle-class congregation like this can afford to renovate?

Preservationists make the specious argument that "money's available." Do some digging and you'll see that the $12MM handed out was over many years and to 600 or so recepients, so that's roughly 3 or 4 square feet (at the above cost numbers). What a joke. No one wants to talk specifics.

PS The pro-landmarks talking heads - also don't talk about how much extra resources (MONEY AND TIME) - landmarks attorneys, engineers, designers, etc. that are needed in any project going forward. Who pays for them? Not Landmarks, Not Preservationists, Not the NIMBY's who want to preserve their view. Nope, the poor group who owns this "landmark."

A more fair economic question might be - Why are the Landmarks cost borne by the owner, when the "benefit" is for all? Is this fair way to allocate the (often, much) increased cost?

If you support Landmarking, then please keep mind the new front window is $250,000 (yes one window.) Open that wallet and dig deep and put your money where your heart is.

Anonymous said...

I've been in the building. There's no easy place for an elevator - so disabled seniors, people with neurological issues, new parents with kids in strollers can not even get up to main sanctuary.

This fascination with sub-standard buildings that caused building codes to change is hard to understand. This building should never have been landmarked, and if it actually had any political clout behind it, it would NOT have been.

All to often people use their power to hurt the poor...

Anonymous said...

The synagogue can still sell it and make plenty of money. Developers turn houses of worship into multi-unit residences all the time. There are a number of such buildings in the East Village, and many in Brooklyn and elsewhere. People will pay a pretty penny to live in a distinctive, dignified building with soul and history.

If the congregation truly feels financially burdened by the building, there IS a lucrative way out. Put it back on the market.

Then their real estate agent should be trying to place the congregation in a modern, sparkling new home in the new Extell development on 14th Street btw A/B or the new Steiner development on Ave A btw 11th/12th. Those developers need tenants. And they might even strike a fair deal in order to burnish their reputations as community-minded instead of greedy.