Building Owner, Reverend Try To Bring School To Bronx Courthouse
Two weeks ago, NY1 reported on the possibility of a charter school opening inside of an old Bronx courthouse that has been sitting unused for almost 30 years. Tuesday NY1's Dean Meminger, who was the first reporter allowed to enter the courthouse in years, took a look at the progress and filed the following report.
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The landmark Bronx Borough Courthouse on Third Avenue in the Bronx has marble walls, high ceilings and plenty of space; but, it has been vacant since 1978.
"It was a building meant for public use, and we plan to restore it to such a use,” said the building’s owner, Henry Weinstein.
Weinstein has owned the property for close to ten years. Now he is having the old courthouse cleaned out, perhaps so students can walk the halls where lawyers and judges once roamed.
The Department of Education is reviewing a charter school application from the Bronx group, Urban Youth Alliance, and Virginia-based Imagine Schools, to use the site.
"[We are] exploring various funding possibilities with the Imagine Schools and the Bronx borough presidents office,” said Weinstein. “We believe if they get the charter from the Board of Education, the money will be available for the build out of the school."
This is not the first time community groups, or the city, have eyed using the courthouse, which has been gathering dust through four different mayoral administrations. Nothing ever materialized, but this time there may be divine intervention — according to Reverend Timothy Birkett, who is with the Urban Youth Alliance. Birkett is also the pastor of Alive Community Church, which is housed in a former synagogue at the Daughters of Jacob Geriatric Center.
The reverend says he and Weinstein are on the same page.
"A lot of prayers were in it to keep him in position, not getting any money for the building, but just waiting on it to be turned into a school,” said Birkett.
Part of their bond is that Weinstein discovered that his relatives long ago were prominent members of the synagogue that's now home to the reverend's church.
"I saw that many of my distant relatives had plaques on the wall,” said Weinstein. “I was pleasantly surprised at how the synagogue was preserved."
"He began to realize that we had done something very unique and very sensitive and very respectful for his heritage and his family,” said Birkett. “And at that point we were connected together."
A Bronx connection nearly 100 years in the making — which few know about. And, so, with a lot of hope, prayer, and money the reverend believes this old courthouse will become a new charter school in the next few years.