Monday, June 11, 2007

Shearith Israel Back in Play

More Tower Talk: Congregation Shearith Israel's Luxury Condo Plan is Back
After a more than a year of watching and waiting, Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) is back with its controversial plan to develop 5 stories of luxury condos on top of a new community house at 8 West 70th Street. Community Board 7's Land Use Committee will hold a public meeting to discuss (and possibly vote on) this application on Wednesday, June 20 (starting after 7 PM, more specific time tba). The location is
7 West 83rd Street
(between Central Park West and
Columbus Avenue
) in the board room of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.
Between the New-York Historical Society on the West Side, Mt. Sinai on the East Side, uptown and downtown (and, as the old song goes, all around the town), the issue of tax-exempt nonprofit institutions exploiting their sites as "development opportunities" is more timely than ever. That's why YOUR participation in CB7's June 20 meeting is absolutely essential! This is about more than one institution's attempt to develop its real estate on the back of the surrounding community. This is about breaking down the West Side's historically strong resistance to inappropriate development that, block by block, will erode the architectural character and integrity of our city's historic districts.
While CSI could construct an appropriate, 6-story community house facility "as of right" (i.e., following groundrules for sound development), it needs no fewer than 8 special variances from the Board of Standards and Appeals to build a 105'-tall structure, including condos, more than twice as high as the brownstones that define this historic mid-block of West 70th Street, protected as part of an R8-B contextual zoning district AND as part of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, both created decades ago to preserve the low-rise, human-scale character of our neighborhood's mid-blocks. The site is also immediately adjacent to one of New York's most important Individual Landmarks, Congregation Shearith Israel, aka the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue (Brunner & Tryon, 1897), one of the handful of low-rise, Classical-style institutional buildings that play a key role in the Central Park West skyline.
Don't let Congregation Shearith Israel be yet another domino to fall! Join us at Community Board 7 on June 20!

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