The New York Theological Seminary: Grunstein Negotiates Lease

The New York Theological Seminary, a center for theological study in Morningside Heights, has educated generations of church leaders since its founding in 1900.

Real Estate Law Expert Leonard Grunstein handled the sale of the New York Theological Seminary building to a well-known developer skilled in the adaptive reuse of existing buildings. The seminary building was gut-rehabbed and recreated as a residential apartment complex. Mr. Grunstein also negotiated the lease that allowed the seminary to relocate to the Marble Collegiate Church.

The school was set up by Wilbert Webster White, an educator and scholar who envisioned a curriculum that emphasized practical ministry training and study of the Bible in the students’ own languages. From the beginning, White aimed to create a school that would incorporate a Bible school-type education into a university system. The school was distinguished by its acceptance of both men and women, as well as for its diversity, with a wide range of races, cultures and religious denominations represented among the student body.

As the demographics of New York City began to change in the 1970s and 1980s, the school adapted in response, under the direction of another acclaimed educator, George Webber. Instruction in Spanish and Korean was incorporated into the curriculum, and new programs on nights and weekends were added for the benefit of working urban ministers who sought more formal training. Under Webber, the school became a hub for black, Hispanic, and female students, and enrollment doubled.

The school also launched a Master’s program inside the Sing Sing Correctional Facility to train inmates in the New York State Correctional System for ministry. The program has since earned acclaim, with graduates seeing far lower recidivism rates than the overall prison population.

The seminary has been located in a number of sites around the city during its history. It was previously located in a building that housed the school as well as a dormitory. As its mission evolved, it no longer needed so large a structure. The building was sold and the school relocated, first to the office tower within the Marble Collegiate Church in Midtown and subsequently to its present location on Riverside Drive in 2002.

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