Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update January 9, 2023

Houses of Worship and Housing 

Last month we shared some good news about the work Bricks and Mortals has been doing in partnership with Mayor Adams, Pastor Gil Monrose, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, and the Mayor's Working Group on Faith-Based Affordable Housing & Community Development. Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Chief Adviser to the Mayor, continued to uplift the importance of houses of worship in helping with the Mayors goal of building 500,000 housing units to address the housing crisis in New York City. At the Building Bridges interfaith event, Lewis-Martin proposed the role of churches, synagogues, and mosques as mediators in development battles and encouraged faith based leaders “to use their voice, to decry hate and racism.” 

Ingrid Lewis-Martin, addresses attendees at City & State’s Building Bridges interfaith event. Photo by Rita Thompson via

Last month Gov. Kathy Huchol also pledged a similar goal of building 800,000 housing units to solve the housing crisis in New York state. 

City and State reached out to experts to discuss this housing pledge. Some interesting points were made, regarding logistics and climate goals, that faith-based institutions looking to be a part of the future of housing in New York should certainly take note of. Overall, most agree that “New York needs a holistic approach to addressing housing” and faith-based institutions are well positioned to take the lead on that. 

Houses of Faith and Historic Preservation

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine has finally opened, after the original church was destroyed during 9/11. Santiago Calatrava, the architect of the redesigned shrine, stated, “I hope to see this structure serve its purpose as a sanctuary for worship but also as a place for reflection on what the city endured and how it is moving forward.” 

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Photo by Alan Karchmer, via

Preserving history through monuments, buildings and shrines gives people a connection to the past and creates cultural anchors in neighborhoods. Unfortunately, not all buildings can be preserved, but perhaps, in the spirit of a new year and new beginnings, new structures can be created. Church officials from the Middle Collegiate Church, in the East Village have recently determined that the remaining facade of the building must be demolished in order for the church to move ahead with plans for a new structure. The church suffered a devastating fire in 2020, and the decision to demolish and rebuild came because the church does not want to sell the site or move in with another church.

A week before Christmas was the 20th anniversary of the “Exonerated Five.” The story of the “Exonerated Five,” formerly known as the “Central Park Five,” has now been memorialized, at the northeast entrance of Central Park in Harlem. The “Gate of the Exonerated” is the first and only addition to Central Park’s official entrance names since the 19th century. This gate is a powerful (non-faith) example of how the built environment can acknowledge injustice, preserve history and help a community move forward in healing. 

Another recent preservation struggle is taking place in Queens. The Forest Hills Jewish Center is looking to downsize their temple since their congregation has been decreased, but they still need a way to preserve a 32 feet tall and 19 feet wide, gold leaf, bronze, and plaster ark. The Jewish Center wanted to sell or donate the ark to another synagogue or museum, but their priority is to make sure it stays intact and accessible to the public. 

Monumental ark at The Forest Hills Jewish Center. Photo by J.C.Rice, via

Meanwhile, The New York Times takes a deep dive into the preservation of the dome at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine – an example of how with proper maintenance a well-designed masterpiece could last a lifetime. 

We conclude this week's newsletter with a farewell to Pope Benedict XVI who passed away on December 31st, 2022. The funeral was held on January 5th and led by Pope Francis. Images from the service can be viewed here.

Looking to preserve your space through a variety of creative strategies?