Volume 75, Number 45 | March 29 -April 04 2006

Rivington St. synagogue property is not for sale

By Lincoln Anderson

A real estate posting on the Web purportedly offering the property of the First Roumanian-American Congregation at 89 Rivington St. for sale was bogus, according to the synagogue.

On March 14, Curbed.com, a real estate blog, linked to the listing, which appeared on Craigslist and Dakota Realty’s Web sites and which offered the property — which it described as being 7,600 square feet with a floor-area ratio (F.A.R.) of 6 — for $15.3 million. However, by the next day, the listing had disappeared, or as Curbed.com said, “vanished in the night.”

When one goes to the listing now, one is greeted by the message: “This posting has been deleted by its author.”

Joshua Shainberg, the congregation’s vice president, said the synagogue is not offering the property for sale, at least not at this point, and isn’t working with any real estate agent.

“Yeah, I called them and they denied everything,” Shainberg said of Dakota Realty. “I said, ‘Look I’m not suing, but you don’t represent us.’ There’s no contract with any real estate agency representing our property. As far as I know, I’m the vice president of the congregation, the property’s not being sold. We are committed to rebuilding a shul there. Donald Trump hasn’t come down here and said, ‘Here’s $15 million.’ ”

Shainberg said he’d like to see a printout of the original listing. He added that after the listing appeared, people stopped offering donations to the synagogue’s rebuilding fund.

The Villager’s call to Dakota Realty was directed to the voice mailbox of an employee who did not respond to the message by press time.

Joshua Albertson, editor-at-large of Curbed.com, said he could not provide a printout or record of the listing.

“We linked to the listing, which appeared on Craigslist and Dakota Realty,” he said. “The next day, that listing was gone from both Web sites. The posts, including dates, reflect the extent of what I know. Alas, I do not have the listing saved in any way (screen shot, etc.),” Albertson told The Villager.

Following the partial collapse of the 150-year-old synagogue building’s roof on Jan. 22, there was immediate speculation as to whether the small congregation would repair the building or demolish it and build anew or possibly sell the property to a developer. From the start, however, the synagogue’s three rabbi brothers have vowed that, one way or another, there will again be a functioning synagogue at the location.

On March 3, the synagogue got a demolition permit to raze the entire building. The Department of Buildings earlier this month told The Villager it was the synagogue’s decision to demolish the building and that D.O.B. did not order the demolition.

Shainberg, however, claims D.O.B. effectively ordered the demolition.

“The Department of Buildings told us, ‘You are to demolish it or we are to demolish it. There were figures of up to $1.5 million for demolition,” he said.

He said they just recently removed the historic ark from inside what’s left of the synagogue. Congregation members have paid their own money to demolish the building halfway, and are now counting on insurance to help pay for the rest of the job.

Shainberg said the congregation would like to build a new more modest-sized synagogue on the site, perhaps 20 feet high by 60 feet deep by 75 feet wide, which would cost about $2 million to $3 million.

“We don’t have hundreds of congregants as they did 100 years ago,” he noted. The congregation has about 30 members today. “We have to demolish everything,” he said. “Then we will have a meeting. Then we will decide for various reasons what can be done.”

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