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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

At 212 West 93rd Street is a 94-year old synagogue named Congregation Shaare Zedek. The congregation has long been dealing with trying to maintain that building and a 16-acre Jewish cemetery in Bayside, Queens which has been slowly deteriorating.  Now, with the purchase of the synagogue by a real estate developer, the synagogue is being slated for demolition and conversion into condos.

The final decision regarding the synagogue was made by State Supreme Court Justice Debra James on July 27th of this year.  She ruled that real estate developer Ornstein Leyton Company could demolish the building and replace it with a planned 14-story condominium building.  Three floors on the bottom will be preserved for Shaare Zedek and a new synagogue.  As a neighbor put it, “All options were’s a done deal.”  The neighbor wished to remain anonymous so as to not to offend anyone in the neighborhood who wished to contend the decision.

Services in Shaare Zedek have been held since 1923. According to the neighbor who was interviewed, an email was sent out stating that, after the High Holy Days in September, the congregation would, "say goodbye to our space.”  The president of the synagogue, Michael Firestone, has revealed that not only was upkeep of the building becoming difficult but that sale was a financially necessary move.  The synagogue will ultimately be sold for $34.3 million to Ornstein Leyton Company.  $18.3 million from the sale will be slated for construction of a new synagogue, and $8 million for maintenance of the Bayside, Queens cemetery that the congregation is also responsible for.  

According to Scott Leyton, a partner with Ornstein Leyton Co., the congregation had originally reached out to the real estate developer seeking a partner to help save the congregation dealing with an “antiquated, beautiful, but really nonfunctional place of worship.” As he stated, “We spent a long time in the collaboration on how our building fits their use.  That was really the trick, having a win-win situation in as many places as we could.”  

Plans are being made to preserve the stained glass and ceiling fixtures of the current synagogue, as well as build an outdoor space for the new synagogue’s second floor.

Efforts were made to prevent the demolition of the synagogue by residents of the local neighborhood who formed the West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition.  They appealed to local area officials, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and Community Board 7.  None of them could stop the planned destruction of the building and its conversion into condos.  The decision by the State Supreme Court made it final.

By: Anat Ghelber