New York Law Journal Article On CBST's New Home
Check out the first article about CBST's Capital Campaign and home at 130 W. 30th Street! The article was in the New York Law Journal on June 29th. The text of the article is below.
New York Law Journal
June 29, 2011
The day before New York recognized same-sex marriages, the largest Jewish congregation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and their families in the United States secured permanent space in Manhattan.
Members of the congregation learned about the marriage equality legislation on Friday night after services as they were walking to the Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 riots that are regarded as a seminal location in the gay rights movement.
"We have received a number of inquires about performing weddings but it is still too soon to determine how many," said Gabriel Blau, director of development and communications for Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST).
The congregation has been "performing gay marriage ceremonies for years but our community is excited that our relationships will finally be seen as equal in the eyes of the law," according to its website. "We look forward to many simchot and to signing marriage certificates both here and in our new home."
On Thursday, the congregation closed on the purchase of 17,000 square feet of commercial condominium space at The Cass Gilbert building for $7.1 million. The 20-story landmark condominium building is located at 130 W. 30th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
The congregation bought two adjacent units, one with 8,700 square feet and the other with 8,300, with the intention of combining them. It will have the first floor, including 50 feet of street frontage, mezzanine and lower level areas. Overall, the congregation will increase its space by about 10,000 square feet.
Bryan Cave represented CBST pro bono with a team that included partners William J. Hibsher, Erica R. Forman, Steven D. Bloom and Robert S. Davis and associates Gita Ganhi, David Firestone and Adam Zeidel. Steven D. Korenblat, a partner in the St. Louis office, also provided counsel. Mr. Hibsher is a member of CBST and director of its building committee.
Lawrence D. Waxman, founding partner at Waxman & Waxman, represented the seller of one building. Fuqiang Zhang, a founding partner at Geng & Zhang, in Flushing, represented the seller of the other.
Lisa J. Rinaldi, a founding partner at Gerstein Strauss & Rinaldi, represented the lender, Valley National Bank, which financed about $3 million.
For the past 16 years, CBST had been looking for a permanent space to house its sanctuary, offices, classrooms and multi-function rooms. The congregation viewed more than 100 sites and seriously considered about a dozen before making its choice, said Mr. Hibsher.
"As soon as we saw the building, we knew it was the right place," said Ilene Sameth, the group's executive director. "It's not easy finding a building to accommodate a sanctuary."
Some other sites held promise, she said, but the 30th Street building was "the site where all things came together." High ceilings with few columns and a not too narrow space for auxiliary offices and classrooms were important.
"The building has been preserved beautifully," said Ms. Sameth. Other important considerations included the neighborhood, convenience to transportation, and a flexible space that provided a good street presence with frontage on West 30th Street.
Plans include the consolidation of two of the congregation's locations: permanent space at Church of the Holy Apostles, at 296 9th Ave., about 5,000 square feet in Chelsea, and temporary space at 57 Bethune St., about 5,000 square feet in the West Village.
The space at 130 W. 30th St. is expected to be ready by 2013 in time for Congregation Beit Simchat Torah's 40th anniversary, Mr. Hibsher said.
The congregation has 11 full-time and five part-time staff plus interns. Its membership includes 1,000 adult members and 150 children. Anywhere from 150 to 250 people attend regular Friday services.
Gregg Winter, the president of Winter & Company, and Doug Chitel, an associate, served the congregation and negotiated the financing.
Frank Arends and Patty LaRocco senior vice presidents at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, served the seller of the first unit. Lily Hu, a vice president and associate broker at The Corcoran Group, and salesperson Diana Han, served the second seller.