3 Years After a Windfall, an Unexpected Reality for the Genealogical Society





Since 1869, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has made its name helping New Yorkers understand their roots. But the more the society pondered its future, the more the people at its helm became convinced that it needed to break with its past.

Making what they called a “forward-looking decision,” the trustees hung a for-sale sign on the society’s longtime home at 122 East 58th Street several years ago. Then — to the shock of the society’s own members, who were still reeling from the sale — the trustees gave the society’s vast collection of scholarly books and historic papers to the New York Public Library.

The radical downsizing may have been as pragmatic as it was bold, but the timing could have been better.
Passing the Baton

75 ThumbnailThe July 2007 deed that conveyed the building at 122 East 58th Street from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society to the Hampton Synagogue.

The building was sold in 2007, and one-fourth of the $24 million that the society raised from the sale washed away as the stock market eroded. That, together with high administrative costs, led the society to make large staff reductions in early 2009, just as the new owners of its old headquarters sold them again — this time for $28.5 million....


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