Questions and Answers

Here are the questions from the March 13 Community Meeting, along with answers from the Building Revitalization Committee.  If you have more questions, please send them to revitalize@tbzbrookline.org, and we will post them here.

Q: The 3rd floor plan has different rooms to accommodate different sized groups.  Can we build even more flexibility into the plan?

A:  The new 3rd floor has 5 rooms, ranging in size from a small meeting room for 4-6 people the large room in the center, which can hold 20-24, or more, depending on how the tables are set up.  We considered movable walls to allow rooms to be combined and create even larger spaces, but decided that the downsides (more sound transmission, lost space for the wall mechanisms, and additional cost) outweighed the benefits, especially since we have two larger spaces on the ground floor.

Q: It would be good to be tech-enabled – to integrate what is going on in the sanctuary to the new space upstairs.  It would also be nice to create a “virtual congregation” by broadcasting services online.

A:  There will be speakers on the third floor (as there are now), so the activities in the Sanctuary can be heard upstairs, if desired.  Actually broadcasting the services on the web is a much larger issue for the congregation that is beyond the scope of this project, and one which raises halachic issues which including discussion with the rabbis and the Synagogue Practices Committee

Q: Has the committee considered concerns about our carbon footprint and issues of sustainability in the building (e.g.,. low flush toilets)?

A:  We will follow the Massachusetts Building Code, which already has very high requirements for green building practices.  In addition, we will do an additional review to see if there are areas where we can exceed those standards and make sure we do our best to minimize the environmental impact of the project.

Q: Can we do anything to create more parking?

A:  Unfortunately, there is no room on our small piece of land for parking.  However, we now have an arrangement with the Brookline Police to not ticket anyone at TBZ services on Shabbat.  Please contact the office which can give you a notice to leave in your windshield.  On other days, the parking on our side of Beacon Street is free for up to 2 hours, and there are meters on the opposite side of the street as well.

Q: Can we fix or upgrade small things in the kitchen?  

A:  Our kitchen has challenges, since it is so small and heavily used.   Any kitchen renovations are beyond the scope of this project, but if you have specific ideas for small improvements, please communicate with the standing Building Committee (building@tbzbrookline.org) which can add them to their ongoing list.

Q:  Are we addressing the safety issues moving in and out of the Sanctuary? 

A:  Right now, there are five exits from the Sanctuary, three on the Beacon Street side and two on either side of the bima.  Safety is very important, and we think the best way to address it is with more awareness of the best procedures.   We will spend some time at services explaining where the exits are and how to use them in case of an emergency, and making sure we have good emergency procedures in place.

Q: We will be weatherproofing windows in the Sanctuary?

A:  The current plan is to replace all 6 of the large windows in the Sanctuary.

Q: We can hear children running on the 3rd floor now – worried that children will have to be told to be quiet after construction completed.

A:  There is no perfect answer to noise problems with so many people and groups in our building at the same time.  We will ask the architect to do as much as possible to insulate where needed, and top suggest other noise mitigation strategies.  For example, the stairwells will be carpeted, which we think will be a big improvement.  But no solution will be perfect, and we will still need to be tolerant and accommodate each other.

Q: Visually impaired people need to be accommodated.

A:  Agreed.  There is a special committee being set up to address all the areas of accessibility and inclusivity for TBZ.  We will do our best to incorporation their recommendations for physical changes into the renovations.

Q: Kids will create all kinds of issues (e.g., running, breaking glass, heavy “wear and tear” on furniture).  Also, is this moveable furniture and items that can fulfill more than one purpose (e.g., sliding doors with bookshelves)?

A:  We know that the areas need to be as “kid proof” as possible, and that is part of the planning.  We will work with the Michpachot and Beit Rabban leadership to make sure we have planned as well as possible for areas that work for both kids and adults. In addition, all the new furniture we buy will be a flexible as possible, so it can be folded, stacked, and moved around to accommodate different uses at different times.

Q. Need to make front stairs more inviting and repair columns.

A:  Agreed.  This is part of the plan.

Q. Will we address issue of coat storage? It would be a good idea to provide a bench so people can sit while taking off shoes and boots.

A:  This is a key challenge that doesn’t have a good solution in the current plan.  We will ask the architect to consider this and come up with a plan.

Q:  What will we do while construction is going on regarding services, Hebrew school and programs, and are there cost considerations?

A. Depending on when construction occurs, we will have to find a way to accommodate it.  Our contractor will be experienced with “occupied renovation,” which means they will take many precautions to make sure we can still use the building as much as possible. There will be some inconvenience – for example, we may need to hold some services in the Community Room, but it will be worth it for the result!

Q: Carbon footprint  — why aren’t we using the ceiling fans in the Sanctuary? 

A. Unfortunately the fans are old, make noise and some of them wobble.  When we have tried them in past, we get too many complaints about these issues.  Addressing them is not part of the budget for the current plans – that will have to be a future item.

Q. What will the acoustics be like under the overhang?

A. Good question.  We will contact our sound consultant.  We may need to install additional speakers in the back.

Q: Can we figure out a way to use outside space as sacred space?

A:  Right now, this is beyond the scope of the current project and budget, but is certainly worth considering for the future.

Q: Are we using union contractors, and are we considering fair labor practices when bidding out the project?

A:  We agree that this is important, and needs attention.  Union contractors are typically more expensive than nonunion contractors, and would increase the cost.  However, as a nonprofit, it may be possible to make special arrangements with the unions, and we certainly want to make sure our contractors observe fair labor standards whether union or non-union.  The co-chairs of the BRC will be meeting with members of our community who are involved in this area and can help us figure out how to address these issues fairly.

Q: What about handicapped accessibility for the bima?

A:  This is an important issue, but is not part of the current plan, since it would be expensive and take up a significant amount of space.  There is a separate committee being formed to look at all issues of inclusivity and accessibility at TBZ, and then set priorities and come up with a plan.  We are pleased that, as part of this project, we are able to create full accessibility for the third floor, but we may not be able to do everything we would like at one time.

Q: What about HVAC for the upstairs and downstairs?

A:  The new third floor will have its own new HVAC (heating-ventilating-air-conditioning) system, but it won’t affect the rest of the building.

Q: Can we save the exterior doors that we are removing from the front of the building because they are historic?

A:  The plan is to replace the front exterior doors with ones that are more secure, have windows to let in light and create visual accessibility to the outside, and that do a much better job of making the lobby weatherproof.  We will need permission from the Brookline Historic Commission, and will do our best to have the new doors be historically sensitive, but do not want to keep them for the reasons noted above.

Q: Can we install a loop system (hearing system) in the Sanctuary?

A.  Good suggestion.  It is not part of the current project, but we will ask the new committee on inclusivity and accessibility to look into it.

Q:  How much will this cost and how will we pay for it?

A:  We will need a special Capital Campaign to raise the money from our members, and planning is already underway.  The total cost is expected to be about $1,050,000, and we have already talked to some memberswho have made generous pledges for nearly half the total! In the next month or two, we will be announcing a public campaign to raise the balance we need.  We are counting on 100% participation, so stay tuned.