In December the organization signed a contract and accepted a deposit to sell its two-floor Manhattan condominium for $15.9 million. The plan is to rent a new office space, also in Manhattan, and use the monies generated by the sale to establish a supporting foundation to help fund ongoing programs, seed innovation, and ensure long-term financial sustainability.
Selling the New York office is one element of an ongoing USCJ strategy, begun three years ago, of cutting expenses, expanding philanthropic support, and focusing on core functions – all aimed at better meeting the needs of congregations.
The organization’s board is discussing how best to allocate the proceeds of the sale, which after moving and other costs is expected to net $13.5 – $14 million. Board members have indicated that a significant portion of the monies would go toward creating a Fund for the Future, essentially a foundation to help support USCJ’s congregational programs, seed innovative initiatives, and provide capital reserves. A smaller portion of the proceeds would be used to pay down debt.
There are numerous possibilities being considered for innovation funding. Some examples are: awarding micro-grants for innovative programs; seeding new congregations in areas with large unaffiliated populations not served by Conservative congregations; new initiatives to engage Baby Boomers; new technology both for United Synagogue and its congregations; and new marketing and communications initiatives for Conservative Judaism.
Before putting its office up for sale, United Synagogue professionals and board members conducted extensive research into the New York real estate market. They found that the organization could sell its mid-town condominium at an attractive price while leasing appropriate space elsewhere at an affordable rate.
The sale of the office, located at 820 Second Ave. in Manhattan, is expected to close some time in the spring of 2015, and a move is expected in August or September. Under New York State law, the sale must be approved by a vote of USCJ congregations, which will take place this February and March.