<< Back


652 Lexington Avenue (55th Street), Central Synagogue, application for the installation of HVAC equipment in the side yard.

WHEREAS, 652 Lexington Avenue (Central Synagogue) is an individually Landmarked (designated in 1966) building, designed by Henry Fernbach who is considered America's first prominent Jewish architect, built in 1872; and

WHEREAS, This is the oldest building in continuous use as a synagogue in New York; and

WHEREAS, The building is noted for its distinctive American 19th Century Moorish style architecture including its star-studded bronze cupolas; and

WHEREAS, On August 20, 1998 the synagogue sustained a devastating fire which nearly destroyed the entire building and after three years the building was fully restored at a substantial cost to its members and continues in use to the present time; and

WHEREAS, The existing HVAC system for the synagogue is located on the roof of 123 East 55th Street, which is the Community House for the synagogue, and must be piped under East 55th Street to reach the synagogue building which is across the street; and 

WHEREAS, This system is deemed inadequate and obsolete for cooling purposes, especially during the High Holidays when the congregants number 1,200 in the main sanctuary and another 600 in the basement atrium area; and

WHEREAS, Various other possible solutions have been explored including new mechanical equipment to be placed either on the roof of the synagogue or above the Community House or geothermal energy sourced from below ground, all of which are considered impractical or less desirable alternatives; and

WHEREAS, The proposed installation of new HVAC equipment in the narrow side yard to the south of the synagogue in an alley way owned by the synagogue, to be placed in a 9 foot steel frame above the one-story glass covered atrium, will provide the 200 tons of cooling capacity required by the synagogue; and

WHEREAS, The new equipment is required for the protection of the historic organ, the preservation of interior building finishes and the comfort of elderly congregants; and

WHEREAS, A mockup has been placed at the location of the equipment and indicates that it will only be visible only from a vantage point of 18 feet of sidewalk on the easterly side of Lexington Avenue and not visible at all from the westerly sidewalk in front of the brick entrance to the side yard; and

WHEREAS, The synagogue has selected equipment that has very low noise levels and minimal size to keep it as  little intrusive as possible for services and for its adjacent neighbors in the apartment building to the south, and 

WHEREAS, Storm windows will be placed outside the stained glass windows of the sanctuary to further limit any sound emission from the equipment; and

WHEREAS, Lights will be placed on the underside of the steel frame to illuminate the glass covered atrium during daylight hours; and

WHEREAS, The surface of the exterior of the metal covering the equipment facing the street will be in a horizontal seam pattern to keep it as inconspicuous as possible; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board 5 recommends approval for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of HVAC equipment in the side yard of 652 Lexington Avenue (Central Synagogue).

The above resolution passed by a vote of 29 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstaining.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter