By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — The Upper West Side synagogue where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan celebrated her bat mitzvah has stopped construction on a new shul because it doesn't have enough money to continue the work.
The new building at Lincoln Square Synagogue was initially expected to cost roughly $19 million, but construction costs have skyrocketed and another $15 to $20 million is needed to complete the project, a spokeswoman said. It would have been the first new synagogue built in Manhattan in the last 50 years.
"If you've ever done any kind of construction in Manhattan, including on your own apartment, you know it often costs more than you expect and that's the situation we're in," said synagogue spokeswoman Gloria Kestenbaum.
When it became clear that costs were going up, the synagogue started a fundraising campaign and collected $7 million. But that's not enough to keep the hammers swinging.
New estimates are still being calculated, Kestenbaum said. Lincoln Square Synagogue began in an apartment in Lincoln Towers in 1964. Its current building was built in 1971. In the 1980's it bought a nearby bank building and now uses both structures for a variety of classes and groups.
A developer paid the synagogue $19 million for the two buildings, which the developer wants to replace with a high-rise. Originally that money was supposed to cover the cost of the new synagogue, Kestenbaum said.
Now Lincoln Square is weighing its options, including the possibility of scaling back some features in the new building. However, one aspect will stay the same. A 5,000-square-foot glass facade for the new building has already been built and is ready to ship from China, Kestenbaum said.
To continue with the construction, the synagogue is considering partnering with another organization that could share the new building, or approaching "naming donors" — wealthy individuals who would donate money in exchange for having their name, or that of a loved one they want to honor, on the building.
"Lincoln Square Synagogue has been and continues to be an illustrious, well-known synagogue," Kestenbaum said. "It's an opportunity for someone who has the kind of money to do that and the desire to commemorate someone."
The synagogue was in the news when Upper West Sider Elena Kagan became a U.S. Supreme Court justice earlier this year. Kagan attended the synagogue and was the first girl to celebrate a bat mitzah there. Prior to Kagan, the synagogue offered only bar mitzvahs, for boys.