An Interview with Mr. Israel Glaser, Chairman, YCQ Board of Trustees

Over the summer of 2022, the Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ) carried out an extraordinary modernization project, which improved heating, air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, computer technology, and classroom/faculty space. YCQ welcomed students back on the first day of school – September 6.

Please discuss the history of this capital improvement.

The Yeshiva of Central Queens was founded over 80 years ago in Jamaica, Queens. In 1975, YCQ relocated to where it is today, in Kew Gardens Hills. In 2001, a new state-of-the-art junior high school building was completed. For 47 years, the elementary school building has been a home for thousands of students. Recently, it began to show its age, particularly regarding mechanical systems: heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). The Board explored various options, studying ways to address these conditions, and consulted with professionals in the industry, including mechanical engineers, architects, and air conditioning professionals, to determine what would be the most effective way to address these concerns.

Why did the Board decide to complete this project this year?

First, the Board understood the many health benefits of improved ventilation. Second, government climate change regulations relating to energy efficiency are now on the horizon. Third, YCQ was approved for Universal Pre-K, which required adding new classrooms and changing the configuration of some existing classrooms. Finally, the Board saw an opportunity to improve other aspects of the environment within the elementary school building by upgrading the lighting, fire safety, and ceilings within the classrooms, offices, and corridors. Ultimately, it was determined that a complete replacement of the mechanical systems would be the most efficient approach to addressing the heating, ventilation, and cooling systems of the elementary school building. Once the Board committed to that, they expanded the program to include other essential improvements. It took a full year of planning to begin the work and started when the last student and teacher left the building in June 2022.

Which improvements are visible?

Upon entering the elementary school building, a difference is immediately noticeable. The main lobby is brighter and more spacious. The school now features brand new ceilings, brighter lighting, and a newly installed fire sprinkler system. In the classrooms, new smartboard technology has been installed. YCQ has created office spaces to accommodate new personnel, including the Director of Admissions and Curriculum Coordinators. Reconfigured classrooms on the first floor house the UPK program. We were excited to unveil a new spacious staff lounge, with private rooms for nursing mothers, and an outdoor terrace, exclusive for staff to enjoy.

Which improvements are not visible?

Since most of the improvements revolved around the HVAC systems, a lot of the work took place behind walls and in ceilings. When the final HVAC equipment is installed and the system is turned on, the difference will not be seen, but felt, with improved climate control and comfort for staff and students.

Who was involved in the planning of the project, and how?

The multi-faceted collaboration included Dr. Joel Wein, President, Rabbi Mark Landsman, Principal, Rabbi Yaakov Lonner, Executive Director, and Rabbi Avraham Kovitz, Administrator. Mr. Aaron Kessler served as Project Manager. A cooperative effort took place between Mr. Carlo Swensen, Mr. Kessler’s Assistant, the entire Maintenance Crew led by Mr. Richie Nunez, and the IT Department led by Mr. Benjamin Wexler. Mr. Kessler planned, researched, and coordinated efforts with Rabbi Landsman and his team of Assistant Principals from the elementary school – Mrs. Melissa Cohen (now Associate Principal), Rabbi Joshua Rohr, and Morah Sharon Korn, who was involved in the design of the UPK classrooms. Volunteers who lent their time and wisdom included Mr. Alex Olsen, Mr. Joseph Hametz, and Mr. Barry Gavarin z”l. Mrs. Aliza Peled, Mr. Zisha Barth, and the Executive Committee demonstrated extraordinary commitment to YCQ.

Which facets are you particularly proud of?

YCQ appreciates the financial sacrifice parents make every day to send their children to yeshivah, and therefore, YCQ spent millions of dollars on this capital improvement without raising tuition at all. With Hashem’s help, over 80 years, YCQ has accumulated a modest endowment. A significant portion of that endowment was used to cover the enormous costs of this project. Looking forward, YCQ will embark on a fundraising campaign to replenish YCQ’s endowment so that future generations of YCQ students will have similar financial security.

Were there any surprises during the work?

Of course, there were issues that came up throughout the construction, expected with a project of this magnitude. The biggest challenge was timing, because YCQ functions as a learning institution ten months a year. Construction could only begin when YCQ’s semester ended and needed to be substantially complete before classes resumed on September 6, 2022, leaving about 12 weeks to work. With tremendous gratitude to Hashem, nothing prevented the work from continuing at a steady pace.

Working on the improvement of a yeshivah is a huge mitzvah for a community. Did you learn any important lessons during the campaign that you can share?

It was an honor and privilege to be involved in this project. Most everything about this endeavor took place in the ceilings, and so the lesson I took away is what can be accomplished when we look up! Every detail required siyata diShmaya, and we were fortunate that Hashem held our hands throughout. Our prayer is that He continues to do so, as we educate the next generation of leaders of the Jewish people.