DCP to Hear Zoning Variance Proposal for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Towers

Posted on: December 3rd, 2019 at 5:00 am by

The proposed two-towered development atop the fire-ravaged Beth Hamedrash Hagadol site is the subject of a public hearing before the Department of City Planning this week.

The size and heft of the block-long beast – co-developed by Gotham Organization and the Chinese-American Planning Council – is apparently not permissible under the current zoning designation (R-8). In fact, it’s approximately two-and-a-half times bigger than zoning allows. So the developers seek a variance (R-9) that would essentially legalize the oversized project at Broome and Norfolk Streets.

As reported, the new development at 60 Norfolk spans the block of Broome Street, and is composed of two towers. The first is a 16-story mid-rise with 115 affordable apartments for seniors and a 4,000 square-foot commercial condo for Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, both as sanctuary and a Jewish cultural heritage center that can be converted to office space in future. This is built atop the synagogue ruins. (The original design was to incorporate elements of the building, but a fatal wall collapse in October changed that.)

Photo: Gotham Organization

The second contiguous building is a 30-story high-rise with 25% affordable units and a portion of space dedicated to the new flagship headquarters for co-developer Chinese-American Planning Council (owner of the Hong Ning residence next door). It’s built on the parking lot owned by the organization.

DCP will hear the proposal at a public hearing tomorrow (December 4).

Meanwhile, community response to the project has been rather anemic. Community Board 3, which heard the proposal back in September, didn’t seem thrilled. And while the local body did approve the development, it expressed concerns about the overall height and bulk, traffic, congestion and construction safety. After all, this area is a war zone thanks to Essex Crossing.

There is also a feeling among other locals that, unlike Essex Crossing, community involvement for this development is nearly nonexistent.

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in the 1960s, Photo: Carole Teller

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