I was saddened to read that Lincoln Square Synagogue has been forced to halt construction on its new building due to significant cost overruns (“Lincoln Square Halts Construction On New Shul,” Oct. 22).
In his depiction of the status of similar synagogue projects, former LSS President Morton Landowne is quoted as saying that a number of other Orthodox synagogues have seen cost overruns “in the $10 million range.” He cites The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) as one such synagogue. Fortunately for the more than 600 members of HIR, he does not have his facts straight.
HIR’s entire expansion was projected to cost under $10 million in hard construction costs and the project came in substantially on budget. Moreover, the entire construction project, which consisted of two distinct phases and began with demolition in the summer of 2008, came in on time, with the first phase opening prior to Rosh HaShanah 2009, and the second phase opening nine months later, in time for our synagogue’s annual dinner in June 2010.
Part of this accomplishment is due to the efforts of a small and hardworking building committee — one which met weekly for nearly three years and which consisted of a half dozen experts in various aspects of commercial construction. More importantly, I believe the key to the project’s success was a commitment to build modestly and in accord with the needs of our synagogue. The real need was for a space that would enable our synagogue (better known as The Bayit) to better fulfill its four-tiered mission: Torah, outreach, social justice and Israel advocacy.
The dramatic changes in our economy since we started construction have not been without impact on our synagogue, like all synagogues and other not-for -profits, and we continue to actively pursue our capital campaign (and would welcome financial support from the broader Jewish community). We could not, however, be more pleased with the outcome of our project and the community response to our new building and its understated aesthetics, which has been overwhelmingly positive. We can now resume our mission-based approach with its focus on a more open and inclusive Orthodoxy.
President, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
Riverdale, The Bronx