At one point, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol even considered tearing the building down and selling the land, but outcry from preservationists led the synagogue's leadership to change its tune. It took at least two hours for firefighters to bring the blaze under control, and it burned for several hours afterwards, according to reports.
A witness told fire officials that he saw three people running from an abandoned Lower East Side synagogue as it erupted in flames Sunday, police sources said.
Firefighters responded to the blaze at 60 Norfolk St. on the Lower East Side after a call came in at about 7 p.m., the FDNY said.
Representatives from the New York Fire Department told ThinkProgress the cause of the fire remains under investigation, and it is unclear if the building was subject to arson or set aflame in another fashion. It was operational for over 120 years until shutting its doors in 2007 amid dwindling membership and the need for repairs, estimated at $3-4 million, after a fire in 2001 destroyed the building's roof and ceiling. No civilians were rescued from the building, and no civilian injuries were reported. In 1967, the building was declared a city landmark, and in 2003 it was designated an endangered historic site. It used to house the city's oldest Orthodox Jewish congregation, according to the New York Times.
In recent years, the building was in poor condition.