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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 18, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 19Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Growing New York Stake Needs Expensive Real Estate
(For Houses of God, a Devlish Market)
New York Times 18Jun00 B1
By Nadine Brozan

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- In the past few years, the sizzling economy has led to a hot real estate market in New York City, doubling prices in just the last four years. Churches in the city have been hit as hard as anyone, given their specific needs, which often make it difficult to convert space from other uses. And the growth of the LDS Church on Manhattan and in the rest of the city makes the expense an immediate concern.

Currently, the 9-unit New York New York Stake includes just the 22.5-square-mile island of Manhattan. Six of the units are squeezed into the Church's Lincoln Square tower, occupying 3 floors with two chapels in the building. Two of the remaining three units occupy a beautiful new building in upper Manhattan, and the last unit, the Harlem branch, meets in a small building in Harlem, purchased from the Jehovah's Witnesses for $300,000.

But the stake is growing rapidly, doubling in the past 10 years. One ward is expected to be split this summer, and a chinese program, already meeting in a small space in New York's Chinatown, should be made a branch soon. And at least two of the units currently meeting in the Lincoln Square building could use buildings in their geographic boundaries, with some members taking as much as an hour to travel to church on public transportation. In the Stake's view, the Harlem building needs to be replaced, and two additional buildings are needed, one on Manhattan's upper east side and another downtown.

But finding land to build on, or even acceptable real estate at all, is a real challenge, says Richard Hedberg, the church's real estate representative for the Northeast and parts of Canada. "It is especially difficult in Manhattan. Land is so expensive, and everything has something on it. Typically, you have to buy something, tear it down and build it back up." And that is exactly what is planned for the Harlem building, according to the Times.

New York New York Stake President Brent Belnap says that the building needs to be in Harlem, where it is close to the members, "We have a large number of members who live in the area, and we believe in taking the building to the members," said Belnap. "It is a less than desirable building now, but we are planning to build a temporary meeting house for four congregations on that site and on a vacant lot next door that we bought that together are 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep." And having a meeting house in the community allows the Church to reach out to others, "We have youth programs we feel will bless the lives of the people of Harlem in a major way, from scouting to basketball, along with programs to strengthen the family and assist people in employment."

But finding the space can take a long time, and the prices are shocking to those not familiar with them. "We have also been actively searching for space for five years on the Upper East Side," President Belnap said. Fortunately, attitudes among the Church's real estate officials seem to have improved, "It used to be that they were concerned about price," he said. "Now they know if we want members on the Upper East Side, we must pay Manhattan prices - and that would be multimillions of dollars."

The Times' article also looks at the difficulties faced by other religions in finding acceptable real estate on Manhattan. Only one of the churches had little trouble, the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, which was able to expand into nearby lots. But the mosque's spiritual leader, Imam Izak-el M. Pasha, credit's the unique situation in Harlem for their success. "Harlem has had a history of unfortunate circumstances so there were plenty of vacant lots here."

And churches downtown have had a much, much more difficult time, including the East End Temple, a Reform Jewish congregation which has been trying to expand for the past 15 years. Helene Spring, the president of the temple said that developers weren't interested in providing space for a church, "Putting in a Gap or Duane Reade or whatever is worth more than a synagogue," Spring said.

See also:

Various Times and Sundry Places New York LDS Historian Spring00 D1 By Ned Thomas [Requires Adobe Acrobat]

First Manhattan Chapel in 25 Years New York LDS Historian Spring00 D1 By Anne Knight [Requires Adobe Acrobat]

The Mormons Keep Watch Over Queens Mormon News 1Aug00 D1 By Kent Larsen


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