The office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams stressed that funds for its recently announced Faith-Based Development Initiative are open to all qualifying religious organizations. The clarification came as a result of an open letter circulated by Boro Park attorney Aaron Tyk who complained that his inquiry regarding the distribution of funds for qualifying shuls and yeshivos had gone unanswered by the borough president’s staff.
“Brooklyn Borough Hall prides itself on being a model for religious inclusivity, as exemplified by the Office of Faith-Based and Clergy Initiatives that [Adams] opened when he first took office in 2014,” Stefan Ringel, communications director to Borough President Adams, told Hamodia. “This office is committed to improving Brooklyn’s diverse communities, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, through a variety of empowerment activities that include city agency forums and leadership training. All faiths are represented in these open-to-all efforts, including Jewish groups and organizations.”
The initiative partners religious institutions which own developable land with builders and offers grant money for the construction of affordable housing units. Funds are not awarded directly to houses of worship, but rather through third-party non-profit organizations affiliated with them. The borough president’s office announced the plan in October when it publicized the awarding of $2 million to various churches around Brooklyn.
Upon learning of the program from the initial announcement, Mr. Tyk penned a letter to Mr. Adams’ office inquiring as to the availability of funds for Jewish institutions, specifically referencing Boro Park’s historic Congregation Bnei Yehudah on 16th Avenue and 53rd Street. Mr. Tyk is a member of the shul’s board and believes that some of its land could potentially be redeveloped for housing. Though he did not submit a formal application, Mr. Tyk told Hamodia that he feels the lack of response over a two-month period needs explanation.
“Mr. Adams knows who I am, because he selected me for the community board a few years ago. If they just wanted to tell me to apply and that money was available, why didn’t they answer and say so?” he asked.
Mr. Tyk said that he recently was contacted by representatives of two other shuls in the Boro Park/Flatbush areas who would also be potentially interested in pursuing similar grants.
Mr. Ringel of the borough president’s office stressed that the application process for the coming fiscal year had just recently opened and that all applications from all faith groups would be considered. To date, he said, his office has not received any applications from Jewish groups.