Dedicated to the preservation of New York City's historic landmarked West 70th Street and
protection from the incursion of an inappropriate condominum tower at the Shearith Israel Synagogue site.

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June 20, 2007 - 7:00 PM 7 W. 83rd St.
Community Board 7 Land Use Committee
Public Meeting

shim Impacts:

The non-as of right portions of the proposed building will have a detrimental impact on sunlight on the narrow 70th Street - but the BSA and CB7 have failed to require shadow studies of West 70th Street, even though the law makes light a factor in the waiver process.

The Congregation has consistently failed to provide sightlines which show the top of the proposed building as well as adjacent buildings - concealing the wall of buildings impact.

In 2005 when CB7 reviewed the landmarking aspects of the project, the model presented to the Board was set back from the property line - but, the present proposal has no setback.

The non-as of right portions of the proposed building will wall off the windows of several apartments in 18 West 70th Street.




Important Issues and Facts:

  • The project proposed by the Congregation, if built, would be the tallest mid-block structure ever allowed to be built since the creation of contextual zoning in 1984 and the Upper/West Side Historic District in 1990.

  • The Congregation is seeking a waiver of the zoning laws to add floors to a proposed communtiy house building, which added floors would be used solely for residential condominiums, and have nothing at all to do with the Synagogue and its religious programs.

  • Havoc would be wreaked on the zoning process were the Congregation's rationale to be accepted: that non-profits can obtain waivers of zoning laws solely in order to construct condominiums and other commercial properties.

  • Granting the variances requested by CSI would create a precedent that would justify the construction of numerous modern, high rise condominium/commercial buildings in traditional brownstone and residential neighborhoods, not just on the Upper West Side but throughout the City. Doubtless the sponsors of the currently proposed tower at the New York Historical Society would cite such a variance in support of zoing waivers for that construction.

  • The Congregation's argument that ownership of a landmarked property is a hardship permitting the owner of the landmark to obtain zoning waivers on adjacent property would be the end of landmark protection in the City.

  • Zoning law is clear as to the five findings that must be made as to each variance requested - the Congregation cannot meet these conditions, and only political manipulation or creative obfuscation could authorize the variances.

  • BSA commissioners, who are acting as hearing examiners in the quasi judicial proceedings of a variance waive,r have held improper ex parte private meeting or meetings with the Congregation, and refuse to provide information as to the discussions at said meeting or meetings.

  • The BSA has consistently rejected waivers to the zoning law for profit generating apartments and catering halls requested by yeshivas and synagogues and other religious institutions in Brooklyn. To permit a famed and wealthy Synagogue in Manhattan to do the same simply to make a profit and change precedent would raise many questions and wreak havoc in Brooklyn and the other boroughs.

  • All of the community house requirements of the Congregation, as stated by the Congregation, are satisfied by the as of right building presented by the Congregation in it application.

  • In an as of right building as stated in the Congregation's own economic study, the Congregation will be able to obtain a subsidy from condominium sales of $11.5 million, which would substantially offset the cost of an as of right building.

  • The result of the waivers of law requested would be to provide the members of this wealthy congregation with a free community house and 6000 square foot banquet hall, as well as generate a cash profit to the Congregation in excess of $5 million, as well as monetizing the value of their land, altogether generating nearly $24 million in cash for the Congregation, plus provide facilities to generate more cash from rentals. Part of the $24 million would be used to complete the building, estimated by the Congregation at $11.5 million

  • The economic study provided by the Congregation fails to include income to the Congregation from rental of the community house to the unrelated Beit Rabban School or other school, the Parsonage on CPW, and banquet hall.
  • The economic study uses flawed assumptions in its return on investment analysis, assigning zero value to the proportionate part of the land value used by the Congregation for the community house.

  • Although the Congregation claims to be following the tradition of the Congregation, the Trustees who built the Synagogue in 1897 and later Trustees in 1941, were careful, using restrictive covenants, to protect the Synagogue from a tall building on the construction site.

  • Jewish Law strongly disfavors constructing a building taller than a synagogue adjacent to the synagogue.

  • The construction site, prior to 1954 consisted of brownstone rowhouses. In 1954, the Congregation reconstructed the rowhouse at 8 West converting it into the present community house.

  • In 1971, after the Synagogue had been landmarked, the Congregation purchased and demolished the row house which occupied what was the vacant lot on the construction site.

  • The Congregation in 2007 expended substantial sums for the construction of a pre-fabricated building located on the once vacant lot and being rented to the school and futher sums in 2005-6 to renovate the community house for the school - over $350,000 according to Department of Building records.

  • The Beit Rabban School, currently leasing the community house, is an independent school with no affiliation to the Congregation - it is a tenant generating cash for the Congregation.



The construction site located at 8-12 West 70th Street is 64 x 100 feet, or 6432sq. ft..

73% of the construction site is subject to R-8B Zoning, limiting building height to 75 feet.

The Congregation has proposed a 105 foot tall building consisting of four floors for "community use" and 5 condominium floors.

The uppermost of the 5 condominum floors is a penthouse.

The first floor of the building will be 20 feet tall.

Underground, the Congregation will also construct a 6000 square foot banquet hall.

The proposed building will, on its 70th Street facade, be taller than the adjacent 18 West 70th Street Building.

An as of right buidling on the site would permit the Congregation to build two condominum floors.