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Six weeks after authorities foiled an alleged bomb plot against two Bronx synagogues, the Department of Homeland Security has allocated $1.83 million to boost safety at Jewish institutions in another part of the city.
More than two dozen Jewish organizations in Brooklyn, including yeshivot, synagogues and a children's museum, will receive funds as part of the program, an effort to offset security costs at non-profit institutions considered particularly high-risk by officials.
"What was noteworthy about the Bronx event was that it was not that unusual," said Rep. Anthony D. Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens), who announced the grants Tuesday at the Bnos Yisroel School for Girls in Flatbush, one of the facilities set to receive the funds. "Despite the fact that we are safe in New York, there remain too many people ready to commit acts of hate."
As much as $75,000 will be awarded to each of 26 Brooklyn non-profits, with the money designated for security measures including surveillance equipment, bullet-proofing and electronically controlled entries and exits.
The Brooklyn organizations are expected to receive the grants within the next two months, part of a total of $4.1m. being awarded this year to 61 non-profit groups spread across New York City. While Jewish organizations are strongly represented among the grant winners citywide, their numbers are particularly robust in Brooklyn, where just one of the 26 recipient institutions is not connected with the Jewish community.
First awarded in 2005, the security funds are allocated based on applications submitted to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. In their proposals for funding, organizations must detail how they will use the grants, as well as the security threats they face. Bnos Yisroel administrator Rabbi Boruch L. Barnetsky said he applied for a grant on three previous occasions, but that only his organization's most recent request, submitted in January, had been successful. The school, which cited crime statistics provided by local police in its application, will spend its grant on surveillance cameras and more outside lighting, among other uses, Barnetsky said.
Since the creation of the grants four years ago, more than 200 New York City non-profits have collected grants totaling more than $17 million, Weiner said. The program will grow slightly in 2009, rising to 61 grant winners from 59 a year ago. Recipients may use the one-time grants for staff training, but the funds cannot be used to hire security guards or other personnel. And while Weiner cited Citibank as the type of private company that should be held responsible for its own security, the non-profit grant winners must cover at least part of their safety expenses, with grant rules requiring they contribute "matching funds" of 25 percent of the funding they receive.
Brooklyn organizations awarded security grants this year include the Jewish Children's Museum in Crown Heights and the United Lubavitcher Yeshiva of Midwood. Eight of the borough's 26 grant winners - including the non-Jewish recipient - opted not to have their names publicly released, citing security concerns.
In past years, New York City non-Jewish groups to receive funding have included St. Johns University and the Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn.
In the aftermath of May's thwarted Bronx bombings - in which four local men allegedly conspired to plant explosives at the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center - the added security funds appeared to offer peace of mind to Brooklyn's Jewish community leaders.
"We have to be proactive about protecting ourselves," said Rabbi Barnetsky. "Because of this program, we will be that much safer."