Dear Romemu Community,

I’m getting more and more excited as we move toward inhabiting our new home on the southeast corner of 105th St. and Amsterdam! While we plan to continue using the main sanctuary at the West End Presbyterian Church for prayer services, the new building will be a “one-stop shop” for our adult education, Seekers Holistic Hebrew School, front offices, community celebrations, kiddushim and meals after services, Yeshiva, community activism, volunteer work, and more. Our new building will also be the base from which we grow our Livestream, podcasting and distance learning offerings, support our members in Romemu Brooklyn and Westchester, and in general, reach out to those who seek to experience Romemu and learn with us from across the globe. So when people ask, "Is the new building for the benefit of the local Romemu community?" or "Is the building going to be used as a hub for sharing Romemu with seekers everywhere?," the answer is a definite, "Yes!"
Since my update in February, the Romemu Campus Steering Committee has blossomed to include over a dozen community members split into two working task forces: one focused on the renovation and the steps needed to occupy the building, and the other focused on community and government relations. I’m excited to share with you some issues that are top of mind:
1. Renovation: Board members and architectural geniuses Hali Weiss and Allegra Kochman have created a spec for a "basic" renovation that would allow us to move into the building with minimal changes. This includes mainly "surface work" -- painting, cleaning and replacing flooring where needed, replacing old hardware on doors, bathroom and light fixtures, servicing the heat and A/C systems, adding basic security feature, etc. Nothing structural, and nothing too fancy. The Board has approved this plan for the renovation, with the thinking that we should move into the building as soon as possible, live in the space for a while, and see how it works with our current programming before we contemplate any more major changes. Hali and Allegra met recently with several contractors and are reviewing bids. Given the financing process and renovation time, it’s likely that we will be moving into the building after the High Holidays.

2. Accessibility: We have received a lot of feedback (thank you!) from community members emphasizing the need to make the new building fully accessible. We are all absolutely on the same page with this. Top of mind is adding an elevator to the building since the largest room in the building is on the second floor -- currently, a gymnasium -- and will be used for large community gatherings in the way that the 3rd floor of the Church is currently used. The Steering Committee has done a lot of research on what it would take to install an elevator. The process involves hiring elevator consultants to advise on locations and size, developing architectural plans, securing permits from the NYC government, and securing the funds (expected to exceed $1 million). While this is outside of the scope and timeframe for the initial renovation and move-in, we are investigating the potential for it to be included in a future phase.
3. Interim Use: There have been many requests to use the building before the renovation takes place. Until now, we have been resisting them all -- from staff and community members alike. The time, money and energy required to get the building in shape for actual use, and then support programming with security, maintenance, and other staffing, is considerable. Nonetheless, we are reevaluating VERY LIMITED use of the building between now and the beginning of the renovation in the summer, mainly for the “Oneg Shabbat” celebrations after services on Friday nights. This depends on both having enough sponsors to cover the costs involved and having enough volunteers to help with setup/cleanup, so if you can help please contact me. We are hoping to start these ASAP.

4. Space for Rent: The lease on our current office space at 43 W 110th St. runs through September 2020. If we move into the new building as planned, we will have nine-ish months left on that lease. It would be in our best interests to help find the landlord a new tenant, and potentially avoid having to pay for time on the lease we will not use. If you know anyone who may want to rent up to 4300sf of space (in 2 separable sections), please let me know.

5. Financing: We are currently in discussions with several banks regarding construction financing, as well as a long term mortgage on the property. If you have expertise in these issues or can offer assistance with financing, please let me know. 

6. Tour the Building!  If you'd like to see the new building, we will be giving a tour before the upcoming Community Meeting on May 1st. Meet me in front of the building on the southeast corner of 105th and Amsterdam at 5:00pm.

As always, you can contact me directly, or fill out this short survey if you have specific suggestions or want to get more involved.

Until next time, thank you for your interest and involvement on this amazing journey.

Blessings for a Shabbat Shalom,

Jeffrey Cahn
Executive Director