An Orthodox Jewish congregation wants to sell four properties in Saratoga Springs, including three dilapidated buildings on Lafayette Street that a builder wants to buy.
Congregation Mikveh Israel, which is based at 26 Lafayette St. but whose members mostly live in Brooklyn, used the houses as a synagogue and temporary quarters while they stayed in Saratoga Springs during the summer. There are 20 apartments in the three buildings, and the residents ate kosher food there and took ritual baths for spiritual purification.
Orthodox Jews have come to Saratoga Springs for decades for the springs, drinking the carbonated water that bubbles from the ground and bathing in the mineral baths. Thousands of Jews came each summer in the 1950s and 1960s, but the tradition’s popularity diminished with the passage of time.
By the 1990s, a few hundred Jews still came, all ultra-Orthodox. Congregation Mikveh Israel was formed in 1971 by Rabbi Mendel Igel and was led for the last few decades by his son, Rabbi Abraham Igel.
Now, the group wants to disband and sell the properties and its other assets, and it petitioned state Supreme Court in Saratoga County on April 12 to do so. Religious organizations are required to get court approval to sell property.
The properties are 24, 26 and 30 Lafayette St. and an adjoining vacant lot at 81 Phila St.
“The buildings are no longer usable, and have been found structurally unsound,” the petition states. “The congregation has not operated a place of worship or temporary residences since the High Holidays in the fall of 2009, and seeks to dissolve and sell and transfer its assets, rather than relocate.”
The three buildings are appraised at $85,000 each and the lot’s value is estimated at $95,000. The congregation has had the properties on the market since around the time it stopped coming to Saratoga Springs, asking $650,000 for all of them.
Rejuvenation Homes of Saratoga Springs would pay $300,000 for the three Lafayette Street properties if the court approves the deal. The company designs and builds new homes and “re-purposes” old homes, according to its website. Company officials did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.
On the city’s zoning map, the properties are located in an Urban Residential-4 zone, which is intended for a mix of single-family, two-family and multiunit buildings.
Abraham Igel would be paid $41,983.96 from the sale proceeds as reimbursement for maintenance expenses, utilities and professional and bank fees he footed starting in October 2009. After payments for debts and costs associated with dissolving, the group would transfer the rest of its assets, including the vacant Phila Street lot, to Congregation Gates of Prayer, which the petition says shares Congregation Mikveh Israel’s religious beliefs.
The deteriorated Lafayette Street buildings stand out among the well-kept houses on the one-block-long street that connects Circular and Henry streets near the Saratoga Springs Public Library. They’ve been dilapidated for years.
In a 1992 Gazette story about the congregation, Igel and his wife, Yosha, said they worried constantly about the houses caving in, but members who rented the apartments — at that time, most were retirees who survived the Holocaust — couldn’t pay much.
“We’re holding onto this place on a shoestring,” Abraham Igel said then.