Deep in the Hasidic territory at the northern edge of Bedford-Stuyvesant, old industrial buildings bump up against new apartments with staggered balconies, which abut kosher grocery stores and bakeries. The neighborhood is dotted with new synagogues and yeshivas, built to keep up with the fast-growing population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. And every once in a while, an organization takes over an old factory to convert it, instead of tearing it down.
Yeshiva Ahavas Israel, headquartered in a curved, 1920s brick factory at Franklin and Flushing Avenues, found one such industrial building nearby at 88 Walworth Street. Earlier this week, they filed plans to convert the low-slung structure between Park and Myrtle Avenues into a house of worship.
Schedule A filings note that the building used to house a cannery, and a sign tacked to the front proclaims a business called Tasty Mix Products, which apparently produced dough. Longtime owners Louis and Salvatore Ballarino also ran a pasta manufacturing company, and they moved both their businesses to Staten Island in the late ’90s, according to this old press release from the Giuliani era.
This future synagogue benefits from a convenient loophole in zoning rules about M-1 properties. Building any other kind of community facility, like hospitals or medical offices, would require a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals. But houses of worship are allowed in M-1 zones as-of-right.
The 5,000-square-foot property hasn’t changed hands since 1997. As far as we can tell, the Ballarinos still own it, but a sale may not have hit public records yet. Hugues Paul of Jamaica-based P.E.I Consulting applied for the permit.