Got $50 million? The Forest Hills Jewish Center is on the market – Queens Daily Eagle

Posted By on December 5, 2020

By David Brand

Got $50 million to spare? You could be the next owner of the historic Forest Hills Jewish Center.

The block-long building at 106-06 Queens Boulevard is now on the market, ending a fringe effort to get the site landmarked by the city.

Forest Hills Jewish Center Executive Director Deborah Gregor said the congregation will thrive in a new location or, perhaps, in a space carved out on the existing site by whoever purchases the property.

Our goal is to keep our services running for the community every day, she said. Its not about a building. Its about the congregation and the community.

The congregation was founded in 1931 in a home on Kessel Street, later the site of a small synagogue. The existing Forest Hills Jewish Center, which stretches along 69th Street from Queens Boulevard to Austin Street, was constructed in the late 1940s.

The sale of our property is just the way our congregation is doing for future generations what the congregation in the 1940s did for us, Gregor said. We want to take that asset that they left us and convert it to what will be a new Forest Hills Jewish Center for future generations.

The synagogue fits more than 1,200 people, but the congregation has decreased to around 600 members, according to the Forest Hill Jewish Centers website.

A small group of community members had advocated for landmark status for the building, a proposal initially backed by Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi.

But by October, Hevesi changed his mind. An aide sent an email to the Historic Districts Council indicating that Hevesi would be withdrawing support of landmark designation for the Forest Hills Jewish Center site and the nearby Parkside Chapel.

After discussions and careful considerations with the community leaders involved, our office does not believe the Forest Hills Jewish Center would be a good fit for landmark designation, the aide wrote in an email shared with the Eagle. Civic and religious leadership who utilize the building have relayed their concerns that the current infrastructure of the building no longer meets the needs of the congregation.

Hevesi instead recommended seeking landmark status for the Lefferts Boulevard Bridge between Grenfell and Austin Streets. His office did not respond to requests for comment about the email.

A spokesperson for Councilmember Karen Koslowitz said she too opposed landmark status for the decades-old building. So did Rep. Grace Meng and State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky.

The firm B6 Real Estate Advisors is handling the sale and Gregor said a few developers have already expressed interest. A 2018 plan to demolish the weathered building and construct a new 10-story tower fell through last year.

One outspoken community member has long crusaded to save the physical building, citing its stunning stained glass windows, Holy Ark sculpture and modern architecture, as well as its decades-long importance to Holocaust survivors in Queens.

"I will say that it would be a sin to witness its needless destruction in the name of the wrongful definition of progress, he said.

But Gregor, the executive director, said members of the congregation overwhelmingly support the sale.

Our membership is concerned with preserving the future of the Forest Hills Jewish Center and the preservation of the building itself is not the issue, she said. The issue is maintaining a synagogue that serves the community.

Additional reporting by Rachel Vick

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Got $50 million? The Forest Hills Jewish Center is on the market - Queens Daily Eagle

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