Tifereth Israel landmarked

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The City Council gave its approval to the landmarking of two popular Queens buildings last week.

The Council voted unanimously April 30 to protect three historical city structures, including the Tifereth Israel Synagogue at 109-18 54th Ave. and Jamaica Savings Bank at 161-02 Jamaica Ave.

Tifereth Israel currently serves Bukharian Jews living in Lefrak City and Elmhurst. It was constructed in 1911 and is the oldest operating synagogue in the borough. In 2005, the city and state donated nearly $1 million for restorations, but due to separation of church and state issues, part of the two-story building's basement remains ravaged, according to Tifereth's administrators.

"We feel great," said Esther Khaimov, wife of Rabbi Amnun Khaimov, after hearing of the Council's approval. She said she recently learned the temple would receive $400,000 from Borough President Helen Marshall's office.

"We will try to find more," she said. "I have already found $10,000, but we need another $140,000 in order to start restoration. It's not so much."

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) praised the temple's landmarking.

"It is important that our community's historic identity be preserved for all generations to come," he said in a statement.

The 109-year-old Jamaica Savings Bank was officially designated as a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in February. The Council vote sealed the building's status.

"Truly it's a building worth preserving," City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said of the 109-year-old bank. "I think that Landmarks did step up to the plate and communicated well with the owner."

The vote was the third attempt made by the city to officially root the bank in Queens's history.

In 1974 and 1992, the Council overturned the LPC's designation for undisclosed reasons, according to an LPC spokeswoman.

After former owner Rita Stark sold the bank in 2004 to Morris Cohen, owner of the Conway clothing store chain, Cohen met with the LPC and Comrie to reach a mutual decision over the designation.

"I'm happy that the third time was the charm," the councilman said.

The Jamaica Savings Bank was built in 1899 as the first branch for the business, according to the LPC. The three-story building's facade is made out of limestone and was constructed with a Beaux Arts architecture style that was popular in America during the turn of the 20th century.

The American Back Note Co. printing plant in the Bronx was also approved for landmarking status during the Council vote last week.

Reach reporters Ivan Pereira and Jeremy Walsh at news@timesledger.com.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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