Smoke billowed out across lower Manhattan on Sunday (New York time), as a synagogue went up in flames.
New York locals posted photographs and video of the blaze on social media, with news agencies reporting it started around 11am Monday (NZ time).
The smoke could be seen across the sprawling city, dominating the sky across the water in Brooklyn.
More than 100 firefighters were called to fight the blaze at the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue, reports local news site PIX11.
Neighbours have been warned to stay indoors, reports NBC. No one has been reported hurt.
The synagogue has been closed since 2008.