By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN – The Brooklyn Public Library is number one, with 9 percent of the votes. Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope is number two, with 8 percent of the vote. The New York Botanical Garden (that’s the Bronx one) is number three, with 7 percent of the votes...
It’s the Partners in Preservation contest, a program in which American Express will award preservation grants to historic places across the country.
The contest, run with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, takes place in one city a year, and this year, it’s taking place in New York. And Brooklyn is in the lead!
People can vote online — not only once, but once a day, from now until May 21. The four winning institutions will each get their full grant request, up to $250,000 each, while the other 36 being considered will get to split up a pot of $2 million.
The Brooklyn institutions that are part of the contest, and the projects they want to see funded, are:
Brooklyn Public Library's Central branch at Grand Army Plaza, replacement of the bronze-and-glass main doors, which can no longer be repaired, with identical ones;
Brown Baptist Memorial Church in Fort Greene, complete restoration of at-risk Tiffany stained glass;
Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, repair of roof, dome, parapets and stained glass in the older of its two buildings;
Coney Island B&B Carousell, safe transport and assembly from Ohio, where it is being restored, back to New York;
Erasmus Hall High School, Flatbush, restoration of four stained glass artworks;
Floyd Bennett Field, Gateway National Park, a C-47 (also known as the DC-3) World War II transport plane housed there, to be restored to its World War II appearance;
Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, rebuilding the waterfront bulkhead for community use.
Historic Weeksville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, the addition of a shed and root cellar to illustrate the community’s self-sustaining lifestyle;
Waterfront Museum Barge and its tug, Pegasus, in Red Hook, replacement of aging materials and damaged hatches.
A spokeswoman for the Partners in Preservation told the Eagle, "The sites are chosen by American Express in cooperation with historic preservation organizations. We put out a call to organizations blindly asking whether they have an interest in a program about getting preservation grants. We started with 400 applications, then narrowed it down to 200, and so on, and ended up with 40."
While there is no guarantee that any Brooklyn organization will be one of the four big grant winners, she said, Brooklyn is currently leading, with the Brooklyn Public Library and Congregation Beth Elohim neck-and-neck for first place. Of course, since voting continues, these numbers change from day to day.
Capt. David Sharps, proprietor of the Waterfront Barge, said, "We’re elated." In addition to restoring the deck house and replacing the hatches in the rooftop, he said, "we’re going to make permanent the chalk markings that the stevedores and longshoremen made in the barge [back when it was a working railroad barge]."
Asked whether he was voting, he said, "Every day! Our motto is, 'Cast a vote to keep us afloat'."
Cindy Greenberg, program director of Congregation Beth Elohim, said, "We’re thrilled to be part of the contest. We feel so proud to be part of such an incredible list of institutions—the finest in New York City. It’s really an honor for us to be chosen."
The windows in the congregation’s circa-1909 older building would definitely benefit from a grant. "They’re sort of bucking and crumbling," she said. Partially to publicize the contest, the synagogue has commissioned a combined "giant piece of artwork" and musical installation from architects Babak and Henry, which will be unveiled at an open house on Sunday.
"We are thrilled that Central Library has been recognized as one of New York City’s historic treasures and chosen to participate in the Partners in Preservation program," said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library. "We have an incredible opportunity to receive much-needed funding to fix our entryway and I encourage all New Yorkers to show their support by voting for BPL."
As part of the contest, all of the institutions that are being considered will have open houses this weekend. For details on these, visit http://partnersinpreservation.com/open-house/.