Preservation Issues

Conservancy Guides Historic Brooklyn Synagogues Towards State, National Register Listing

Ocean Parkway Jewish Center, on Ocean Parkway between Ditmas & Avenue F in Kensington, built in 1924-1926.

Ocean Parkway Jewish Center.

The former Shaari Zedek Synagogue in Bedford Stuyvesant - since 1944 the home of St. Leonard's Church, built in 1924-1926.

The former Shaari Zedek Synagogue - since 1944 the home of St. Leonard's Church.

Kol Israel Synagogue in Crown Heights, built in 1928.

Interior of Kol Israel Synagogue in Crown Heights.

This week, the New York State Preservation Board recognized three synagogues nominated to the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places by The New York Landmarks Conservancy. Through its ongoing historic synagogue surveys of New York’s five boroughs, the Conservancy has identified dozens of landmark-quality synagogues and former synagogues in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and this fall will be researching Staten Island.

The Conservancy retained architectural historian Tony Robins to complete 10 National Register nominations, building on the Conservancy’s survey research and outreach to each congregation. Three Queens synagogues were placed on the State Register in June, and yesterday, 3 Brooklyn synagogues were approved for listing on the New York State Registers, and forwarding to the National Register of Historic Places. They are:

Ocean Parkway Jewish Center, on Ocean Parkway between Ditmas & Avenue F in Kensington, built in 1924-1926, a Classical Revival synagogue-center designed by Brooklyn architects Samuel Malkind and Martyn Weinstein.

The former Shaari Zedek Synagogue in Bedford Stuyvesant — since 1944 the home of St. Leonard’s Church, built in 1909-1910, and an early work by Eugene Schoen, an important and influential Brooklyn-born, Columbia University and European-trained, architect, and interior and furniture designer.

And Kol Israel Synagogue in Crown Heights, a handsome vernacular synagogue, featuring a fieldstone front facade embellished with Moorish-influenced decoration, designed by Brooklyn architect Tobias Goldstone and built in 1928.

Their draft National Register Nominations are posted on the state Web site:

All three were identified by the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s 2007 Brooklyn survey – and the congregations have worked closely with the Conservancy over the last few years, leading up to the current state and pending national register listing. Three more Brooklyn synagogues are currently being reviewed by the State Historic Preservation office; we anticipate their New York State nominations in December:

Jewish Center of Kings Highway
Young Israel of Flatbush
Kingsway Jewish Center

A fourth Brooklyn property also approved for New York State Register listing Wednesday – the Congregational Church of the Evangel in, first reached out to the Conservancy in July 2008; we reviewed photos and helped the congregation research its early architectural history via the Brooklyn Public Library’s excellent Brooklyn Eagle archive. We referred the congregation to preservation consultant Marissa Marvelli, whose additional research and documentation resulted in yesterday’s state nomination.

The nomination of these historic synagogues and churches will make the properties eligible for the Conservancy’s grant and loan programs, as well as other potential sources of restoration funding. These nominations celebrate the depth and breadth of Brooklyn’s historic religious heritage.

Funding for the listing of the Queens and Brooklyn synagogues and former synagogues on the National Register was provided by the Preserve New York grant program of the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Click here to read the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s report on the topic.