Y Sheds Pricey Downtown Digs

Tribeca building not ‘cost-effective’; critics say ‘parachuting in’ didn’t work.

03/20/13
Associate Editor
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Just five years after spending millions of dollars to create a state-of-the-art performance venue there, the 92nd Street Y has decided to close its Tribeca facility

The Upper East Side-based Jewish community/cultural center’s board voted last week to leave the Hudson Street building, its only satellite location, which it had occupied since 2007.

Last week’s decision to vacate sometime this summer “was part of 92Y’s strategic planning process to position 92Y to provide the best, most relevant programming to our community and to forge new kinds of communities for the future in the most effective manner,” said Beverly Greenfield, the Y’s public and media relations director, in an e-mail to The Jewish Week.

“We are very proud of the programming we’ve done at 92YTribeca, but over the last five years, we have learned that a second, physical location is not critical to our mission — or to broadening our reach,” she added. “We think 92Y can best serve the community now and in the future by investing our resources into programs at our flagship location uptown, and continuing to invest in strategic partnerships and technologies that allow us to offer our programs and create communities far beyond the walls of any building — livecasts, online classes, partnerships, and initiatives like the Social Good Summit, Giving Tuesday and 92Y American Conversation, which combined strong partnerships, live programming and digital content.”

The Y’s decision comes as the Jewish population — and Jewish programming — in Lower Manhattan is at an all-time high, particularly in Tribeca and Battery Park City. Since 2002, new Jewish institutions that have opened in the area include the Jewish Community Project (JCP), two Chabad houses and Tamid, a synagogue that launched last spring. In addition, the Museum of Jewish Heritage has stepped up its programming for local families, and the nearby City Winery (whose owner Michael Dorf is a Jewish Week board member) hosts High Holy Day services, the annual “Downtown Seder” and other Jewish events.

One local Jewish communal leader, who did not want to publicly criticize the Y, said its Tribeca programs failed to attract a critical mass of 20- and 30-somethings.

“The lesson is that 21st-century community-building has to be organic, created by people who live in the neighborhood,” the leader said. “You can’t parachute in. ‘If you build it they will come’ doesn’t work.”

In addition, the leader said, the Y was a “bad neighbor.”

“Other institutions only found out about competing programs when they saw them advertised in the paper,” the leader said.

While the Y initially emphasized that the Tribeca location would focus primarily on arts and culture offerings for 20- and 30-somethings, in the past two years it began hosting a variety of family programming, something several other local organizations also do.

When the Y first leased the Tribeca location, near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, the expectation was that the site would be a new location for Makor, an innovative center for engaging Jews in their 20s and 30s created by mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt in 1999. Steinhardt donated the program and its Upper West Side brownstone headquarters, to the Y in 2001; the Y sold the brownstone to CUNY in 2007 for more than $30 million.

In a statement provided to The Jewish Week, Y Executive Director Sol Adler said, “We are absolutely committed to connecting young Jewish adults with meaningful Jewish experiences, both on Lexington Avenue and across the city. We learned many things from our Tribeca experience; one of them is that operating a second venue is not the most cost-effective way of reaching this population, and we think we can better serve the downtown community — and many others — by investing in programs that give us more flexibility.

“The plan is to build on the successes we have had downtown with holiday events and Friday night dinners, which offer relevant, accessible ways to participate in Jewish life. Rabbi Dan Ain — who served as 92YTribeca’s Rabbi in Residence — has been named 92Y’s Director of Innovation and Tradition, and he will be spearheading our ongoing outreach effort to the young Jewish population.”

Y officials declined to say how much money the Y invested in the Tribeca location.

Rabbi Darren Levine, the former executive director of JCP and the founding rabbi of Tamid, issued a statement thanking the Y “for five wonderful years of contributions to the social fabric of Lower Manhattan.

“We’re going to miss the programs, the films, the music, to conversations, the cafe and the comedy, and we thank you for setting a high standard for art, music, and education downtown,” he said.

JCP’s current executive director and president did not respond to an e-mail message requesting comment about 92Y Tribeca. 

julie.inthemix@gmail.com; @julie_wiener

Last Update:

07/22/2013 - 13:31

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