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Emergency Grants Update

We heard many messages of hope and renewal this past week as trees and flowers blossom. We continue to see fellow New Yorkers perform daily acts of heroism and kindness. We join our neighbors in a nightly ritual of shouts, horns and clapping for our dedicated medical and rescue personnel, transit employees, grocery staff, and delivery people. We also shout and clap because we love this great City even more fiercely as it struggles.

We continue to try and assist through our unique programs. In fact, I had just finished editing this report about our Emergency Preservation Grants, when we got an email from the Executive Director of Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island asking for help. A porch column on an 1834 building had fallen onto the house, just missing a window. She had already gotten a proposal from a respected preservation contractor to dismantle the porch—a first step in fixing the problem. We are familiar with the contractor and the house. So, of course, we will help. Building emergencies don’t respect the current “pause.”

Historic Richmond Town is one of the City’s many smaller non-profits owning historic buildings. They can have difficulty maintaining them in the best of times. This grant program allows us to intervene quickly to help remedy emergencies. This isn’t the first time we’ve helped Historic Richmond Town. When a car crashed into a little 1810 former tavern last year, we got an engineer to the scene within hours to devise a rescue and prevent collapse.

There are other dramatic examples of our help. When heavy rains were tearing the roofs of the historic wooden homes at Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center, we quickly paid for roof tarps and window repairs to stop further damage. When the great stained glass dome at the Museum at Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side became loose, we moved to erect scaffolding and helped pay for securing it. When a leaky roof dripped water on electrical equipment at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, our grant helped speedy repairs.

Our Emergency Preservation Grants have helped more than 60 non-profits throughout the City with more than $912,000 in grants since it started in 1999. The New York Community Trust (NYCT) and the Hearst Foundation are our longtime funding partners. After Superstorm Sandy, the NYCT sent additional monies to speed recovery. We were on the phone offering assistance the day after the storm. We eventually helped a dozen institutions ranging from Green-Wood and Woodlawn Cemeteries to the Prospect Park Alliance, Alice Austen House, and the Bowne and Co. Print Shop in the South Street Seaport. The print shop was founded in the late 1700s and still uses wooden type. It’s housed in an 1830s building with a wooden interior that got swamped in the storm. We paid for a specialized wood conservator to help them dry out and save their walls and equipment.

Alex Herrera, our Technical Director, runs the program. He often inspects the damage and helps institutions find the appropriate architects, engineers and contractors. “It’s wonderful to be able to provide immediate assistance when a landmark is in danger,” Alex says. While he doesn’t have a “favorite child,” Alex is very pleased that a grant from the Hearst funds helped Immanuel-First Spanish Church in Brooklyn. A fierce windstorm pulled old, non-original doors off their hinges. We helped install sturdy wooden doors that echoed the originals and fit the circa 1880s building’s neo-Gothic style. The pastor and church had just been featured in a New York Times article about the struggles of poor urban churches to maintain their historic buildings. “The congregation was really happy when the new doors were installed,” Alex reports.

Immanuel-First Spanish Church in Brooklyn


Unfortunately, two of our latest projects are now stalled because of the construction shutdown. We’re trying to repair the porch at the 18th-century Kingsland Homestead in Queens. School groups gather on the porch for tours. But it would be too hazardous now. The former manor house is home to the Queens Historical Society and Museum. We are also trying to help the College Point Little League. You don’t usually associate young ballplayers with historic preservation. But the League owns a 1906 Queen Anne style former firehouse that really needs a new roof. The building also houses a community hall and senior center.

We’ll be ready to go as soon as construction can resume. In the meantime, we’re available to respond to other emails from other non-profits asking for help.

If you have other questions, you can find all the staff email contacts here.

With best wishes for your health and safety from all of us.

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