By Alex Robinson
A shrinking Whitestone synagogue has sold its building to a Great Neck, L.I.-based developer who is leasing a section of the space back to the shul.
Kiumarz Geula bought the Clearview Jewish Center, at 16-50 Utopia Parkway, for $2.2 million at the end of August, according to city records.
The synagogue decided to sell because its aging membership could not keep up with maintenance of the property, but will still rent a section of the building, at 16-50 Utopia Parkway, for its services, Rabbi David Taub said.
“They’re getting older and they didn’t feel they had the energy or capability to take care of the big building,” Taub said. “But the congregation is not gone. The congregation is remaining.”
The shul, which once boasted as many as 1,000 members, has seen a sharp decline in its membership in recent years and now has only around 150, Taub said.
“There used to be crowds in their heyday in the 1980s,” Taub said. “The congregation is getting smaller. The Jewish community is shrinking in the neighborhood. The building was aging and needs a lot of repairs. They made a decision to keep part of the building for themselves.”
Geula, who said he has experience leasing space to non-profit organizations and religious institutions, said he was approached by a friend about the synagogue’s plight.
“We try to provide them the space they need long term and if they have challenges because of congregation changes, we adjust the space for them so they are able to survive,” he said.
The North Side School, an independent charter school offering kindergarten through third-grade, has co-located the synagogue’s space for the last few years, occupying the basement, which used to be a Hebrew school, Taub said. The school is going to continue to lease most of the space from Geula.
City Department of Buildings records show minor interior demolition work was done last year to add new classrooms to the building.
Taub said the school was given permission to start renovation work as tenants after the synagogue membership decided to sell the building last year.
Geula said the leases for the school and synagogue are long term and he has no intention of developing the property in the future.
The Clearview Jewish Center was first started in 1952 in the home of a local dentist, Dr. Abraham Mollin. The congregation held its first services at a number of different locations until it settled on the building on Utopia Parkway.
“We do anticipate being there as a fixture for the indefinite future,” Taub said.
With the Jewish new year approaching, Taub invited community members to join the congregation for the holiday.
“I suggest to anyone that wants to be with us for the holidays is invited as our guest,” he said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.