Brooklyn wins big in preservation grant contest

By Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Two Brooklyn institutions – the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch and Congregation Beth Elohim – were the biggest winners in the 2012 Partners in Preservation contest, beating oThe Brooklyn Public Library will receive $250,000 for replacement of its iconic front doors at Grand Army Plaza. Eagle file photout such well-known Manhattan sites as the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, the High Line and the Guggenheim Museum.

In the online program, co-sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the public had the chance to vote on which four historic institutions out of a field of 40 would get the lion’s share of available grant money for restoration projects.

The results, made public yesterday, show that the library and the Park Slope-based synagogue received the greatest percentage of votes, with nine and eight percent respectively. They, plus the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bartow-Pell Mansion, both in the Bronx, will now get the full grant amounts they asked for.

The library system plans use its $250,000 share of the money to replace the elaborate bronze-and-glass entrance doors at Grand Army Plaza, which can no longer be repaired, with identical ones. Congregation Beth Elohim plans to use its $250,000 grant to repair the dome, roof, parapets and stained glass in its older building, which was built in 1910.

Both institutions mounted extensive publicity campaigns, with pop-ups on their websites urging visitors to vote. So did many of the other Brooklyn institutions that entered the contest – for example, the Waterfront Museum Barge in Red Hook’s slogan was “Cast a vote to keep us afloat.”

Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, said, “the outpouring of support we received from patrons, advocates and staff members has been amazing. The $250,000 grant will allow to replace the Central Library’s bronze and glass main entry doors with exact replicas. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who voted for us.”

Monika Hamburger, executive director of Congregation Beth Elohim, commented, “I believe our deep roots in the neighborhood were the key to our success. This is not just CBE’s stained-glass windows. Old First [Reformed Chruch] worships here, and now the Park Slope Presbyterian Church worships in our sanctuary on Sundays. This is an ecumenical victory.”

Other Brooklyn institutions that applied for grants included Brown Baptist Memorial Church in Fort Greene, Coney Island B&B Carousell, Erasmus Hall High School, Floyd Bennett Field, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, Historic Weeksville and the aforementioned Waterfront Museum.

They will get to split a pot of $2 million, along with their counterparts in the other boroughs, with the exact amounts to be determined next month.

This year’s Partners in Preservation contest started on April 21. Each year, its organizers take it to another city – past programs have taken place in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and more.