In July, Shaare Zedek, a 179-year-old synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a congregation founded by Polish immigrants, announced that they will be selling their land to a developer. The Real Deal reported that the first three floors would be used as a community facility for the synagogue, while the rest will be used for luxury housing—including 20 condominiums. In a city that is being destroyed by unfettered condo construction for the 1%, this has been a troubling trend for struggling faith institutions in the neighborhoods targeted by real estate developers.
I have been a housing justice organizer for 10 years in New York City, and in that time the city landscape has been transformed by luxury housing. I saw this when I was working at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice organizing synagogues to ensure real and deep affordable housing in the new real-estate development in the Lower East Side, a famous Jewish immigrant haven. And I’ve seen it as the interfaith child of a pastor of Judson Memorial Church.
Judson has the same resources as Shaare Zedek: land and air. The church’s Greenwich Village neighborhood has become a real estate playground that has seen massive rent increases and gentrification. Judson’s congregants are struggling with issues of affordable housing and the core moral question of New York: who can afford to live, survive, and thrive here?