View Full Version : Request for Culture at WTC Site

June 30th, 2003, 10:20 PM
LMDC Invites Museum, Cultural Proposals
The Associated Press

June 30, 2003, 2:06 PM EDT

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. invited arts groups around the world on Monday to submit proposals for a museum and a cultural center at the World Trade Center site.

"Cultural programs are an essential element to creating a thriving urban environment in lower Manhattan," Gov. George Pataki said in a statement. "I strongly encourage cultural institutions nationwide and abroad to participate in lower Manhattan's historic rebirth."

Organizations have until Sept. 15 to submit their ideas for a museum commemorating the terrorist attacks of Feb. 26, 1993 and Sept. 11, 2001, and for additional cultural facilities at the trade center site.

Architect Daniel Libeskind's overall plan for the site includes more than 400,000 square feet for cultural uses.

The City Opera had been viewed as a front-runner to anchor the arts center at ground zero, but neighborhood residents polled in May said they would prefer a multipurpose cultural complex such as the 92nd Street Y.

"Everything's a possibility, and certainly the City Opera is one organization that has expressed an interest, but again, we want this to be an open process for everyone to give us their ideas," said Kevin Rampe, president of the development corporation.

Arts groups wishing to participate will be asked to provide documentation of a proven track record and a description of previous experience with capital projects.

Rampe said the development corporation will decide later how much money it will dedicate to cultural facilities.

June 30th, 2003, 11:27 PM
The LMDC is really pissing me off. :angry: IMO The bureaucrats in that crap-hole are the single worst aspect of the rebuilding process, too politically correct and too out of touch for their own good and answering only to Pataki. They have no idea how Lower Manhattan works, functions, or operates. What are they proposing next on Ground Zero, an elementary school?

July 1st, 2003, 09:51 AM
How about a change of record?

July 1st, 2003, 03:46 PM
Agglomeration, check the statistics in the article on this thread:


and answer two questions:

1. Is Midtown a business district?
2. Does Midtown have cultural institutions?

July 1st, 2003, 11:25 PM
Seriously, I really think that opera houses and social services centers just don't belong on Ground Zero. I wouldn't mind them for the rest of Lower Manhattan or Midtown, but to put them on the 16 acres would clearly detract from the WTC's original purpose as a massive and symbolic business and retail epicenter. And while I'm not a fan of Silverstein or Libeskind, I absolutely hate the political meddling of the LMDC.

July 2nd, 2003, 07:16 AM
The site plan already allots 400,000 sq ft to non-business use. What should we put there?

Lower Manhattan began to change long before 9/11. When the WTC was built, this was a 9-5 district. That is no longer the case. As stated in the other thread, this is the fastest
growing residential area in the city.

In my opinion, it's residents that bring long term stability to an area. Companies can move at the drop of a hat; people are more dug-in. Even misguided NIMBYs at least care about where they live.

If a company is considering moving to a community, what does it look for besides a building site? It checks housing, schools, recreational and cultural ammenites for its employees. Why should lower Manhattan be any different? It's value as a business district would be enhanced with a work-force that can commute by foot.

If you accept the population boom that began decades ago, how can you deny them cultural ammenities?

July 2nd, 2003, 09:09 AM
Agglomeration, forgive me but this is nonsense. You sound like a NIMBY with a different agenda. Of course, an opera house!

Also a multiplex cinema, nightclubs, bowling and bunjee jumping. The city is not about what you leave out (that's the suburbs), but about what you put in. I didn't really need to remind you, did I?

July 2nd, 2003, 11:24 AM
I have nothing against new residencies and such in Lower Manhattan as a whole. I really do think they're doing a good job creating new residencies and amenities in Battery Park City and the South Street Seaport area, for example. I'm confident that Downtown will accomodate all the new residents while keeping its status as a major financial hub. I just don't want affordable housing or opera houses right on the 16 acres at the WTC site. And yes, I still hate the LMDC's guts.

(Edited by Agglomeration at 11:28 am on July 2, 2003)

July 2nd, 2003, 01:13 PM
There won't be the slightest lack of commercial space compared to pre-9/11 so this is a non-issue. Single-use urban complexes of such scale are obsolete.

July 2nd, 2003, 02:02 PM
Cultural institutions are essential to the development and growth of any area, especially the "new" downtown. *DT residency is going to increase by more than double what is there now, and this is a lot more than what was there, say, 5 - 10 yrs ago. *It's just the evolution of the area. *All these people would want the 24/7 (cliche, but true) vibe that the rest of NYC provides. *Schools, restaurants, bars, museums, etc. will be HUGE in attracting business and residents alike. *Sure, they need to build up the transportation, but that's planned, too. *This is the best thing for downtown and I hope they get it right.

July 27th, 2003, 07:10 PM
July 27, 2003

Art Groups Want in on Ground Zero Center


Filed at 4:23 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- More than 75 cultural institutions, ranging from established city museums to newcomers like the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, want to be part of the arts center being planned for the new World Trade Center site.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. is not asking for formal proposals yet, but it invited responses from groups around the world to see what types of institutions are interested, said LMDC spokeswoman Joanna Rose.

"We're really looking for a broad mix of cultural institutions,'' Rose said.

Several well-known cultural groups in the city have expressed interest, including the New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804 when the name of the city was sometimes hyphenated.

The historical society began collecting artifacts from the World Trade Center just days after the Sept. 11 attack, said spokesman Travis Stewart. Six weeks later, it opened one of the first exhibits dedicated to the people who died there and the rescue workers.

"From the beginning, we expressed a desire to be part of the cultural component there,'' Stewart said.

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, which just opened in April, also seeks to participate in the rebirth of downtown, said its president and chairman Lawrence Klein.

"Being there is to be part of the city, to be part of rebuilding an area that was devastated,'' Klein said.


On the Net:

New-York Historical Society: http://www.nyhistory.org/

Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art: http://www.moccany.org/

LMDC: http://www.renewnyc.com/

July 28th, 2003, 02:17 PM
Well, it would be great to have a lot of diverse groups there - dance, theater, museums, new, old, etc. *I hope that's what happens. *Some start-ups would be great, too. Add to the city overall, not just shift from one venue to another.

July 31st, 2003, 09:21 AM
July 31, 2003

Cut in Space at Ground Zero May Bar Home for City Opera


The floor space available for a performing arts center for ground zero has been reduced by about 20 percent, say officials involved in drawing up the plans, making it harder to build an opera house there.

It was this reduction of the available floor space, or footprint, to between 35,000 and 37,000 square feet from some 45,000 square feet in the original Daniel Libeskind plan that led the corporation in charge of the rebuilding effort last week to say there is no room for an opera house at the World Trade Center site.

Officials of the New York City Opera, which wants to leave Lincoln Center for downtown, were troubled by the comments; the opera has been talked about as the lead contender for the site's cultural anchor.

In public, however, development officials are now hedging their bets, saying that no option is foreclosed for the two cultural buildings on the site, a performing arts center and a museum.

This uncertainty arises in part because the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation overseeing the rebuilding of ground zero has just invited cultural institutions to submit proposals for the site. On Monday night at an informational forum for cultural institutions the corporation said the dimensions of the cultural buildings would be determined by the groups selected to occupy them.

But given the reduction in the space available and the footprint that City Opera says it needs, it would seem that a significant change in plans would be needed to accommodate an opera house. The opera has proposed a new house with a 60,000-square-foot footprint, Paul Kellogg, general and artistic director of the opera, said in an interview yesterday — so 40,000 square feet would appear to be severely inadequate.

The opera now has 53,000 square feet at the New York State Theater, which it shares with the New York City Ballet. When the State Theater was built in 1964, its backstage space was curtailed at the last minute because of budget cuts. Because of these cramped quarters, as well as acoustics that were designed for dance and to muffle sound, City Opera craves its own home.

Mr. Kellogg said the opera would be open to making some space adjustments, as the developers could be. "I'm sure there is flexibility within the site," he said. "They have the dimensions that we need. This whole process has to play out."

In addition to 2,200 seats and ample backstage space, the opera needs space for sets, costumes, dressing rooms, rehearsals and offices. The development corporation's invitation to cultural groups describes the performing arts center as several stories high, amounting to an overall square footage of 150,000 to 250,000 square feet.

John C. Whitehead, the chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, who has championed City Opera's downtown interests since earlier this year, made a point of saying in interviews this week that the opera was still welcome in Lower Manhattan — if not on the site then somewhere nearby. City Opera is also considering a site in Battery Park City, though it prefers to be at ground zero.

"The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation wants the City Opera to be able to find a home in Lower Manhattan, and City Opera very much wants to find a home in Lower Manhattan," Mr. Whitehead said. "They would prefer to be in the 16-acre site, but if they can't be fit into the 16 acres, they are willing to look at alternatives."

Mr. Whitehead disputed the assertion by his chief operating officer, Matthew Higgins, that the recent space determination had made the possibility of an opera house unlikely, suggesting some internal dissent or miscommunication within the development corporation.

There have been doubts that an opera house can generate the kind of 24-hour activity that planners want for the site, meant to attract both local residents and tourists.

Mr. Kellogg said City Opera's programming and schedule at ground zero would be very different from its current practices, with more matinees and musical theater. City Opera's mission is to offer affordable tickets, he added.

Mr. Kellogg and Irwin Schneiderman, chairman of the opera, have said they are optimistic about being able to come to the project with ample financial support.

The development corporation is expected to provide $200 million to $300 million to cultural organizations selected for the site. Mr. Whitehead said some of this money could also be used to help cultural groups elsewhere downtown.

"The money will be spread thinly over many organizations," Mr. Whitehead said.

At the forum for cultural groups, Richard J. Schwartz, the chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts, emphasized economic viability, saying, "Most of the funding will have to be self-generated."

Mr. Schneiderman said the opera was proceeding with its application, due by Sept. 15. "If there is a will to get it done, it can be done," he said.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

July 31st, 2003, 10:24 AM
150-250K sq.ft. *How big are other centers? *Lincoln Center? *The Kimmel in Philly? etc

TLOZ Link5
July 31st, 2003, 09:45 PM
Lincoln Center campus is 16 acres.

August 22nd, 2003, 04:52 AM
August 22, 2003

A Suitable Venue for City Opera

The redevelopment of the World Trade Center site should, ideally, include a strong cultural presence. And from the first, the New York City Opera, dissatisfied with its present location in Lincoln Center, has been among the cultural institutions most eager to migrate downtown.

It is not at all certain that City Opera will ultimately be invited to make the move. It will take its chances along with other institutions that have submitted or will be submitting proposals to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. In our view, however, City Opera would make a splendid contribution to a revitalized downtown.

Unfortunately, an air of contentiousness already surrounds the move. Some government officials, as well as many local residents who responded to a recent community board survey, seem to feel that City Opera is somehow too specialized and too highbrow to be Lower Manhattan's cultural centerpiece.

It seems strangely inappropriate for the discussion over the cultural outlines of Lower Manhattan to turn on the question of elitism. This city's cultural richness depends on the entire cross-section of the arts. To foster an artificial populism downtown — to defer in advance to programming with the broadest public appeal — is to underestimate the public and underestimate the capacity for audience-building that a move like this might engender for any institution, including City Opera itself.

The significance of 9/11 cannot be expressed in only one art form, high or low, and the same is true for the cultural potential of Lower Manhattan. The way to create the greatest public and artistic vibrancy downtown is to develop a plan that attracts as many different kinds of audiences as possible.

City Opera has other things going for it besides artistic merit. It appears to have the money to build its own space and sustain itself, one of the corporation's basic stipulations. To prosper, it will need to be located near the heart of the trade center site, close to the transportation hub, not in Battery Park City. But the risks it faces are inherently no greater than the ones other institutions would face in moving downtown. And it is obviously willing to take them.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

August 22nd, 2003, 10:24 AM
Sorry, I mean actual buildings, not overall acreage. *

August 29th, 2003, 10:03 AM
Gotham Gazette: http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/arts/00000000/1/491

Lessons from Lincoln Center for the Ground Zero Cultural Center

by Martha Hostetter
August 08, 2003

The 40-year-old Lincoln Center marriage is breaking up: City Opera is hoping to find a new home downtown and the Philharmonic is moving back to Carnegie Hall. And, after months of squabbling over budgets and plans, the chairman of what was to have been a $1.5 billion overhaul of the center's aging buildings has resigned.

Meanwhile, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is seeking to fill a half-million square feet of space designated for culture at the World Trade Center site. In an open invitation, the agency declared that it is "in search of cultural institutions that will establish and maintain Lower Manhattan as a world class cultural destination full of vitality, energy and diversity." Interested parties are requested to submit preliminary proposals by September.

Just as Robert Moses dreamed up Lincoln Center to revitalize a run-down neighborhood, city and corporate interests believe that culture can be a magnet for development downtown. So, the time is right to ask: what's wrong with Lincoln Center? With the benefit of hindsight, what mistakes can the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation avoid in creating the next-generation cultural center?

Lesson #1: Don't Erect Pedestals

In the late 1950s, Lincoln Center was conceived as a temple to high art, proof that New York could compete with European cities as a cultural destination. It catalyzed the creation of arts complexes in capitals across the nation, helping to redefine the role of cities at a time when businesses and families were fleeing them in droves.

Today, Lincoln Center is trying to reinvent itself -- holding parties in its courtyard, reaching out to younger and more diverse audiences, trying to overcome an aura of elitism or, worse, dullness. As part of the center's more modest plans for renovation, stores, restaurants, and a series of sloping ramps will be created along 65th street to open up the campus.

Judging from architect Daniel Libeskind's plan to restore part of the grid and create parks and other public spaces, the new World Trade Center site will be built on a human, rather than monumental, scale. Yet, the shadow of history at Ground Zero -- sacred ground to many -- will place the cultural institutions built there on a different kind of pedestal. There will be a museum to explore the 1993 and 2001 bombings of the towers, and a memorial to the victims. But, will the art that is mounted at the theaters, galleries, or concert halls be required to match the moral seriousness of the tragedy? Will producers, even unconsciously, avoid politically controversial works out of fear of upsetting the families of the dead?

Lesson #2: Don't Be Afraid of Commercialism

Building Lincoln Center proved enormously expensive -- $159.5 million, more than four times original estimates. The Metropolitan Opera House cost $12,000 a seat, at a time when opera houses were being built elsewhere for a fraction. Once expectations had been raised, production costs skyrocketed: Don Quixote, the City Ballet's lavish tribute to its new home, cost more than any other ballet in history.

Originally, Lincoln Center was to have an office tower to generate rental revenue and defray maintenance expenses. The decision to eliminate the tower, and let the city operate the underground parking lot, deprived the center of important funds that could have made it less dependent on corporate and government largesse.

World Trade Center planners should remember that it is easier to raise money for new buildings than it is to pay for their upkeep. It's unlikely that future cultural groups will join the handful of institutions that have their utility costs picked up by the city, and few private funders will volunteer to pay for air-conditioning. Following a growing trend among nonprofits, the new cultural groups should seek to maximize earned income through ticket sales, investments, rentals, stores, and educational programs. They should also pool resources. To encourage collaboration, the city could offer joint purchasing options for common products and services.

Lesson #3: Listen to the Pros

Lincoln Center's architects had to answer to many constituencies, but in many cases they failed to please the Muses. The Avery Fisher Hall was resurfaced three times in its first seven years in hopes of improving muddy acoustics. The Vivian Beaumont Theater was built with huge backstage areas to accommodate multiple sets from shows playing in repertory -- an outmoded model even then, and one that saddled the theater with unnecessary expenses.

Planning for the World Trade Center site will appropriately involve many different parties, but it is crucial that arts professionals have a prominent place at the table. In the past, public officials have proved more adept at discussing the symbolic value of arts than attending to the practical needs of directors, musicians, actors, or museum workers. Perhaps the most important lesson from Lincoln Center is that, over time, cultural spaces will have to meet many different production and aesthetic demands. To prepare for this, veteran theater architect George Izenour calls for designs that are intrinsically adaptable, with walls that move, seats that disappear beneath the floor, and sound panels that can be tuned for the occasion.

Lesson #4: Don't Think Too Big

The producers at Lincoln Center have to fill huge spaces, including a 3,800-seat opera house, 2,900-seat concert hall, and 2,700-seat theater. To succeed, each organization has to cultivate its own constituency of diehard opera fans, ballet aficionados, or theater junkies.

A new cultural center should include performance and exhibit spaces of varying sizes and work to build bridges between different audiences, taking a cue from smaller venues around the city that house film, theater, live music, and visual art. It should vary curtain times -- post-work concerts, late-night weekend performances, Sunday brunch gallery openings -- and make a commitment to keeping tickets affordable.

During the economic boom, Manhattan was arguably more successful at selling and displaying art than creating new work. The World Trade Center cultural infrastructure should make room for independent artists and cultivate the graphic arts, television, and film industries already based downtown. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation should consider proposals from smaller and less-established arts groups, and the city should offer subsidies and tax incentives to create affordable artists' studios and living space around the cultural center.

August 30th, 2003, 10:34 PM
August 31, 2003


The Downtown Culture Derby Begins


In two years of roiling debates over the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, one of the most durable assumptions has been that space should be set aside for those varied pursuits collectively known as "culture." We are still far from knowing which museums or symphonies or purveyors of public art will find a home there, but early indications suggest that the 670,000 square feet allotted for the arts may be a new front in the battle over ground zero's future.

This much is certain: institutions that take the dare and locate themselves at that haunted, contested place will find that a lot more is asked of them than the usual dose of edification and diversion.

The stage on which the dramas will play out, Daniel Libeskind's working master plan for the development, includes one prime site designated for a performing arts center and another, the focal point of the scheme, that is intended for a museum. Two long buildings that abut the museum may house smaller institutions or could be combined with it. Outdoor performances and installations could occupy three new public plazas, one of which serves as the gateway to the memorial. Even without the outdoor areas, the enclosed spaces will have a higher total of square footage than the Museum of Modern Art after its expansion is completed in 2005.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation — the state-controlled, federally financed body that counts among its goals the transformation of the area into a "mixed-use magnet for the arts" — is now soliciting proposals from cultural organizations interested in moving to the site. No decisions are expected until at least early 2004. For well over a year, the performing arts center was assumed to be the future home of the New York City Opera. In the last few weeks, however, that consensus has collapsed. The development corporation appears to have backed away from the idea, claiming that the space would be too small to accommodate an opera house. (Mr. Libeskind, along with city officials, disagrees.) Just last week, the 92nd Street Y confirmed that it was developing plans for an expansion into ground zero, possibly in conjunction with the Joyce Theater, the TriBeCa Film Festival, Hunter College — and City Opera.

As for the museum, a cut-glass geode hovering enigmatically over the area set aside for a memorial, many options have been suggested. The L.M.D.C. has described it, in bureaucratese, as a "museum relating events of 9/11 into historical context." Last year Mr. Libeskind was calling it the Museum at the Edge of Hope. But the lead suitor for that pivotal space, then as now, is a nascent institution with a name that, subject to your take on the national political scene, will be either fortifying or unnerving: the Museum of Freedom.

Whatever the eventual anchor tenants may be, the stakes are high for culture at ground zero. The museum will shape the way visitors interpret the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. And the performing arts center is being conceived as a central component in the revitalization of Lower Manhattan, a cultural nexus that will consolidate what has been referred to as downtown's "kingdom of minor museums" into a major engine of economic recovery.

Even Rudolph Giuliani has argued that appropriate cultural uses are the key to a comeback at ground zero. But emphasis on culture-as-commerce will be less popular with groups like the Coalition of 9/11 Families. Each of the two long wings that extend, Louvre-like, from Mr. Libeskind's museum also crosses one of the footprints of the fallen towers, spaces that the coalition wants preserved "from bedrock to infinity."

So far, however, the most vocal debate surrounding the future arts complex has been about its possible audience. In a flat economy, are there enough culture consumers to fill such a huge new space? Will they journey so far from Manhattan's Carnegie Hall-Lincoln Center-Museum Mile arts belt? "There is a certain arrogance in the Manhattan psyche," says Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, "that limits the cultural life of New York City to 10 square blocks of Midtown."

The area around ground zero is home to several constituencies, each making distinct demands. Tourists on the American heritage trail may seek out this new pilgrimage site after visits to Ellis and Liberty Islands. Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods (who list entertainment and culture at the top of their redevelopment wish lists) are, according to Madelyn Wils, chairwoman of Community Board 1, more interested in "something to take your family to over and over" than in a "9/11 museum you go to once."

Those two uses may not be at odds. The development corporation estimates the memorial could draw up to 10 million visitors a year. Even if their tastes skew toward the mainstream, their spending power could benefit the edgiest local art geeks. "If the Museum of Freedom generates a lot of revenue and can support an outdoor performance venue, bravo!" said Liz Thompson, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

As John Whitehead, chairman of the L.M.D.C., points out, even opera could find a walk-in crowd in that crush. "The downtown kind of space will appeal to a different audience," he said. "No one just walks by the Metropolitan Opera and says, `Gee, I'd like to see an opera today.' If we have 25,000 visitors a day, that becomes realistic."

EARLIER this summer, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation issued the Invitation to Cultural Institutions, a kind of open casting call to groups large and small. Interested parties have until Sept. 15 to submit a short proposal outlining how they would use space at ground zero, as well as how their project could support itself. "It's a call for concepts," says Kevin Rampe, president of the L.M.D.C. "We want to be overwhelmed by the ideas."

It seems likely that they will be. On July 28, the corporation convened a forum at Pace University to explain the new initiative. Representatives from 180 organizations attended, including New York culture stalwarts like the City Center and the American Museum of Natural History, left-of-the-dial concerns like the Knitting Factory and Mabou Mines, and curiosities like the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater.

One goal of this open invitation is to honor the fairness-in-bidding rules associated with the disbursal of federal funds, of which Mr. Rampe said between $200 million and $250 million might eventually be spent. But more generally, it is an effort to democratize a process that had previously played out in private discussions between major institutions and the L.M.D.C.

Last year, for instance, Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, met with Mr. Whitehead to discuss an idea the latter was promoting at the time: the creation of a space at ground zero for rotating displays of art from the city's top museums. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Museum said the director was "amenable" to this idea, but added that there were no continuing discussions; the museum is not planning to respond to the open call for proposals.

Spokespeople for the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art confirmed that they, too, were passing on the invitation, though the Modern did send a staffer to "check out" the July 28 meeting. Major local institutions still planning to submit ideas include the New-York Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York, both of which have extensive collections of material — impromptu shrines, carefully conserved walls of "missing" posters — of the sort that might suit a ground zero museum.

But for any institution or coalition that might make a bid for some of the planned 180,000 square feet of museum space, one competitor looms large. "The Museum of Freedom concept is very much alive," Mr. Whitehead said. "We don't want to give anyone the idea that they have a lock on it. But it is being considered."

As it has been from the very beginning. The Preliminary Blueprint for the Future of Lower Manhattan — a document released in April 2002 that was the first public summary of the L.M.D.C.'s plans — discussed the creation of a Freedom Park that might include "a new museum dedicated to American freedom, tolerance and the values that the World Trade Center represented." Elsewhere, the document mentions the construction of "a museum of freedom and remembrance." Mr. Rampe denied that these descriptions referred to a specific museum. But Tom A. Bernstein, the leader of the Museum of Freedom project, said he had proposed his idea in a letter to the development corporation the month before the blueprint was released.

Further tilting the culturescape in the museum's direction, American Express earlier this year announced that it would help sponsor the project. The company is already providing what a spokeswoman described as "seed grants to develop the idea." In the context of a dire economic environment for the arts, it is not hard to see why a museum with a populist message and bright fiscal prospects might gain an early lead.

It has also drawn early fire from critics, most reacting to little more than the riddle of its name. Edwin Schlossberg, a designer who has just begun work as part of a team retooling the visitor's center at the Statue of Liberty, hails the message but questions the medium. "A monument to freedom, or liberty, or American ideals is exactly what should be there," he said. "But not a museum."

Others worry that the treatment of the idea will be simplistic — "the 9/11 story has a complicated relationship to the idea of freedom," one local museum administrator said — or that a term as loosely defined as "freedom" could be put to ideological ends.

Here the Museum of Freedom may be a victim of its context.Ground zero is itself highly charged political terrain, and may become even more so: in May, Larry A. Silverstein, the primary leaseholder for the World Trade Center, told The Daily News that groundbreaking for the site's signature tower is being timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention in Manhattan next summer. His office later denied the report.

But those hoping to find in the proposed museum a rallying cry for partisan politics or a fulcrum for dissent may be disappointed. Mr. Bernstein seems less like an ideologue than an entrepreneur and an optimist. Best known as the cofounder of Chelsea Piers, the recreational complex on the Hudson River, he was also the executive vice president of Silver Screen Partners and an investor in the Texas Rangers. (George W. Bush, a close friend of Roland Betts, Mr. Bernstein's partner at Chelsea Piers, was a director of Silver Screen and an owner of the Rangers). But he began his career as a lawyer, devoting some of his pro bono time to political asylum cases, which he cites as the inspiration for this project.

The revelation, he said, was the contrast between the environment in the nations his clients were fleeing — Ferdinand Marcos's Philippines, for example — and what he called "the noble American experiment of a free and open society." He likes to use the phrase "warts and all" when describing that experiment, and he said the museum would take an "unvarnished" look at freedom's failures, like slavery and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. "We've got to aspire to our ideals," he said. "And we've made an awful lot of mistakes."

Recently Mr. Bernstein tapped Michael H. Posner, the executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, to serve on a growing team of consultants. For those who fear that the Museum of Freedom might be a shaky bulwark in defense of civil liberties, Mr. Posner should be a reassuring presence: his group helped write three amicus briefs on behalf of Josι Padilla, the American "dirty bomb" suspect who is being held as an enemy combatant. The briefs argued, Mr. Posner said, in favor of "erring on the side of the Constitution."

Last month, with Mr. Posner, Mr. Bernstein led the museum's consultants to the annual meeting of the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience — a group that includes a museum to honor the disappeared in Argentina, a museum to honor victims of the Gulag in Russia, a museum at a Holocaust site in the Czech Republic and the Slave House in Senegal.

Liz Sevcenko, the coalition coordinator, characterized the group's reaction to the Museum of Freedom concept as a split decision. "The folks from the Czech Republic and Russia were saying, `No way, this was an attack on freedom everywhere,' " she recalled. "The South Americans and Africans were saying, `We had your backs for the first couple of months, but . . .' "

Even an uncontroversial museum, or a performing arts complex with something to please everyone, will face a difficult challenge at ground zero, poised between a million square feet of retail space and a nearly five-acre memorial precinct, charged with respecting the dead while bringing life to adjacent shopping streets. For the Museum of Freedom, should it be selected, things could be even trickier.

Somehow, despite their big money, big entertainment, big cafes-and-gift-shops reality, big cultural institutions have been given a pass to operate at ground zero in a mode that many thought was lost: as fonts of enlightenment, zones of transcendence, civic temples. Why else would they be allowed to perch just so on the edge of the Pit? How else could they be used as a buffer between the sacred and the profane?

Mr. Libeskind, for one, still speaks of culture's aura. "I think that the power of culture is: no matter how much money you have, no matter how much power you have, life is about other things," he said. "Life is about other things." *

Philip Nobel is writing a book on the re development of the World Trade Center site.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

August 30th, 2003, 10:49 PM
August 31, 2003


A Dubious Idea of 'Freedom'


A visitor speaking through the megaphone of the Freedom of Expression National Monument, built on the landfill created during construction of the World Trade Center. The site is now Battery Park City.

VOIDS are made for shape-shifting: images of transformation sparked by hope for the future and fear of the unknown. For almost two years, many images have taken the form of possible "cultural uses" for ground zero. An opera house by Sir Norman Foster? An art museum by Frank Gehry?

These are plausible, even worthy ideas. But they are misplaced. They could go anywhere. While they may satisfy the craving to fill up the void, as quickly as possible, they bear no historical relationship to the events that brought the void into being.

Nor do they match the cultural value of the void itself. That vast emptiness has stimulated the public to create its own self-portrait in the incessant stream of fantasies that people have been sketching around this site since Sept. 11.

The most recent of these fantasies has just arrived in the form of a small brochure titled "The Campaign for a Museum of Freedom." Put out by a committee headed by Tom A. Bernstein, co-owner of the Chelsea Piers sports complex on the Hudson River, the pamphlet outlines in general terms an idea that has been circulating for more than a year in civic and political circles.

Unlike the art museum and opera house, the Museum of Freedom does emerge from the specific historical circumstances of the site. Unfortunately, as described in the brochure, the concept distorts those circumstances toward political ends. I have a strong suspicion that this campaign is going to fail.

Still, the pamphlet deserves a prominent place in the permanent record of ground zero fantasies. Brief as it is, this document nonetheless performs a valuable service. It exposes, more explicitly than we critics have, the degree to which the ground zero design process has become saturated with political ideology.

The cover bears an artist's rendering of an aerial view of the site, as it might appear if Daniel Libeskind's drawings were to be realized as actual buildings. We're looking down, toward a green open space encircled by the famous spiral of skyscrapers. Though the rendering is crude, it nonetheless captures the crystalline quality of Mr. Libeskind's formal vocabulary, and his design's indebtedness to German Expressionist architecture of the 1910's and early 1920's.

The chamfered tops of the glass towers, the diagonal patterns of their window mullions, convey the impression that these are the shattered remnants of much larger buildings: the twin towers, by implication. The spiral configuration replicates what the Expressionists called the Stadtkrone, or city crown. Designed for mass spectacle and social ritual, these fruits of the Weimar Republic remained fantasies on paper. Though possibly unaware of this historical precedent and its complex cultural associations, the Museum Planning Committee obviously envisions the Sadtkrone as a worthy model for this site.

The open space is dominated by a large object of faceted glass that resembles an immense diamond solitaire. Since none of the structures shown in the rendering are identified, it's not clear whether this form is intended to represent a building or a sculpture. To judge from its central placement, however, the jewel-like shape could be a place-holder for the memorial now being planned.

Lower structures, partly formed from the bases of the skyscrapers, enclose two sides of the green open space. Also rendered to suggest faceted glass, these structures are tinted in blue and red: patriotic colors, perhaps, or hints of sapphires and rubies. Indeed, with the white diamond glow of the towers and the emerald grass of the open space (itself shown as a tapestry of light refracted through crystal), the entire rendering evokes a gigantic parure of precious stones. Students of Expressionism will have no difficulty recognizing a precedent for this image in Bruno Taut's Alpine Architecture, one of the best-known examples of the Stadtkrone genre.

A second rendering moves in for a closer view of the site. It's still an aerial perspective — figures on the ground register as dots — but the angle of vision has shifted, and the focus is on the lower crystalline structures. Perhaps these are meant to indicate the Museum of Freedom's location and scale. The palette has changed, from precious stones to harlequin colors, red and green, composed in the traditional diamond-shaped motley of commedia dell'arte costumes.

Kunhardt Productions, makers of a PBS documentary series, "Freedom: A History of US," is credited with developing the design and content of the museum. The brochure describes the project as integral to Mr. Libeskind's "unifying concept" of the master plan: "the `assault' on freedom." Like the word "campaign" and the fragmented forms of the towers, the content proposed for the museum is consistent with this martial motif.

The content is programmed in four educational "modules" that recount, in concentric rings, mankind's struggle for emancipation from mental and physical enslavement. Ground zero, the site of the terrorists' assault, is the subject of the first module. As we proceed outward through the rings, the narrative encompasses more and more territory, like an advancing army: New York ("the world's second home" ). America ("the story of its ever-widening circle of freedom" ). Last, but not least, the World ("will shine a spotlight on places that lack basic human freedoms" ).

The brochure is seasoned with quotes from Abraham Lincoln, George Bush, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Emma Lazarus and even Mr. Libeskind. It is adorned with archive photographs (the Berlin Wall) and comes complete with budget estimate ($250 million) and a note on financing: "The Museum of Freedom will be a public-private partnership that will rely on funding from government sources as well as the private sector."

Save your money. I have a much simpler and cheaper idea in mind. Consistent with the values of historic preservation, not to mention the theme of freedom, I propose reconstructing a project that stood not far from ground zero for a brief time in the summer of 1984.

Entitled Freedom of Expression National Monument, this collaborative project was designed by the New York artist-architect team of Laurie Hawkinson, John Malpede and Erika Rothenberg. It was produced by Creative Time's Art on the Beach program, which occupied the landfill created by excavations for the World Trade Center, and is now the site of Battery Park City. Anita Contini, who now heads the memorial design committee for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, was at that time Creative Time's director.

Inspired by early Soviet agit-prop art, the monument consisted of a large red megaphone mounted atop a flight of stairs and pointed toward the twin towers. Visitors were invited to climb the stairs and, in effect, talk back to those massive symbols of state authority and economic power. As the team put it, using the megaphone made people feel "both powerful and powerless at the same time."

To my knowledge, there exists no record of the statements made by visitors to the monument: the curtain had yet to rise on the brave new world of ceaseless digital documentation. This omission could be easily rectified were the monument to be rebuilt today, however, and the need for such a public platform has never been greater than it is now.

Throughout the ground zero design process, many New Yorkers have felt "powerful and powerless at the same time." They have spoken, but with little conviction that they are being heard. Should I have a turn at such a mouthpiece, this is what I would say:

Not everyone saw the twin towers as symbols of freedom. For some, they represented the Kafkaesque mental enslavement of government bureaucracy and dull office routine. For others, they stood for Rockefeller power: for oil, that is to say, and the bizarre things we do to satisfy our need for it.

NOT everyone thinks that the United States is ideally poised at this moment to point fingers at "places that lack basic human freedoms." I note, with approval, that the Freedom Museum will be linked to the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience. But I see scant evidence of conscience in the brochure. Us good, others bad: where's the conscience in that?

Ideally, I would like to voice such opinions without being branded a traitor, a pro-terrorist, or a person opposed to freedom. But I see no indication that your museum will be much help in this regard. I see only one underlying assumption expressed in your brochure: freedom has been assaulted, therefore retaliation is legitimate — even more, is part of the heroic struggle that includes the cause of civil rights.

On the basis of this assumption, the victims of Sept. 11 have been posthumously enlisted as martyrs to a cause they may or may not have supported. But we will never know. And it is not our decision to make.

At what point does a cultural use like your educational modules become indistinguishable from a strategy room for territorial expansion? Will your museum encourage honest debate on issues like this? Martial rhetoric is seldom a sure-fire sign of tolerance for dissent. *

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 9th, 2003, 08:58 AM
September 9, 2003

Proposing a National Theater Downtown


An artist's rendering of the performing arts center Daniel Libeskind, the master-plan architect, has envisioned for the redevelopment of the 16-acre property at ground zero.

A $170 million three-stage theater complex that its backers say would bring the best of the nation's plays and musicals to Lower Manhattan is being proposed for the redevelopment of ground zero.

The project, called the American National Theater, has gained the support of Arthur Miller, Meryl Streep and the director Harold Prince, among other prominent people in the theater world. The actress Blair Brown is giving a cocktail party in Connecticut tomorrow to raise seed money for the project.

"Theater in New York really needs a shot in the arm," Ms. Brown said. "We're locked into big musicals or plays from England, and actors can't make a living Off Broadway."

The proposal is to be submitted to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the rebuilding of downtown. The corporation has invited arts groups worldwide to submit ideas for the site by Monday. Two of the most prominent institutions already competing to be at ground zero are the New York City Opera and the 92nd Street Y.

The national theater would cull the finest offerings from the country's regional stages and present them in the performing arts center that Daniel Libeskind, the master-plan architect, has called for at the World Trade Center site. The complex would include three theaters: one with 800 seats, one with 700 and one with 400. The backers envision 15 productions a year, five on each stage, each running six weeks.

"They will be presented in New York as near as possible in their original form," said Sean Cullen, an actor who has spearheaded the project.

He said the national theater would have an annual budget of $17 million to $20 million. Financing would come from corporations, foundations and individuals. Mr. Cullen said its pool of money would be potentially wider than that of most arts groups because of its national character.

The project is not the first attempt to create a national theater. Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont stage was established with that mandate in mind, and the Kennedy Center in Washington also considers itself the nation's cultural center. Some producers have previously considered creating a permanent acting company that performs plays in repertory, akin to the Royal National Theater in London.

Mr. Cullen said he would pursue the project whether or not it was selected for ground zero.

Several regional theater executives have already embraced the idea of a national theater there. "You could start to see the rich theatrical work that's all over this country," said Emily Mann, artistic director of the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J. "It could be an amazing production of `Antigone' or a new play by Nilo Cruz."

She said regional theater needed a presence in New York. "New York still in so many ways lets the nation know what the great pieces are," she said. Unless you see a regional production where it's staged, she added, "you've missed it."

"So many great productions have been lost into the ether because of that," she continued.

The proposed theater complex at ground zero would include four or five rehearsal halls that could be shared with other organizations, like the TriBeCa Film Festival or the Joyce Theater, Mr. Cullen said. He said he had not yet contacted those potential partners, though both have expressed interest in the site and have discussed a partnership with other groups, like City Opera.

The proposal also provides for a restaurant and a "great hall," a ground-level space that would present audiovisual promotions for the shows playing in the theaters.

The national theater would consider the work of about 150 regional theaters, Mr. Cullen said. A jury of five theater professionals — actors, directors, designers, playwrights — would travel the country looking for worthy candidates. These scouts would serve 15-month terms at salaries of about $100,000. "I guess you could liken it to the Peace Corps," Mr. Cullen said. The 15 final productions would be selected by an artistic director.

"It would take imaginative curating, which is exactly what has happened in the dance world," said Carey Perloff, who is artistic director of American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and serves on the proposed national theater's advisory board. "It's such an enormous country that we don't get to see each other's work enough."

Ms. Perloff would be a strong candidate for the national theater's artistic director, Mr. Cullen said. He also mentioned Ms. Mann, who said she was happy in her current position but welcomed the chance to help.

Mr. Cullen said the idea for such a theater occurred to him four years ago, when he heard Emanuel Azenberg, the Broadway producer, say on television that he imported plays from London because good home-grown work was so scarce. The idea gained momentum when a performing arts center became part of the plans for the World Trade Center site, Mr. Cullen said; he had previously considered the former Coliseum site at Columbus Circle.

Mr. Cullen said he met on May 6 with Mr. Libeskind; Anita Contini, the director of memorial, cultural and civic programs at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; Ron Pisapia, a director in the priority capital programs department at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the 16-acre property at ground zero; and James Connors, deputy director of real estate at the Port Authority.

Mr. Cullen said he obtained the meeting through one of his board members, Christopher Cline, the former chief financial officer of ACTV Inc., which builds interactive television technology. Mr. Cline had a real-estate relationship with Mr. Connors, who in turn took the project to Mr. Pisapia.

Mr. Pisapia expressed enthusiasm for the idea on the theater's Web site, americannationaltheatre.org: "On a personal and professional level, it's difficult to not be excited about the prospect of an American National Theater facility as part of the cultural development of the W.T.C. site." A spokesman for the Port Authority said the agency did not support any particular proposal for ground zero.

The Web site says the theater's advisory panel also includes Nina Lannan, a Broadway general manager; Richard Nelson, the playwright; Jennifer Tipton, the lighting designer; and Mr. Prince, who has directed most of Stephen Sondheim's work, as well as "Phantom of the Opera."

Mr. Prince said the country might be too big for one national theater, but that he was interested in a downtown theater district with productions that were not expected to run indefinitely or to turn a profit. "Producers have a priority, and it's `Is this going to make money?' " he said. "And I don't think that should be our qualifying agenda."

"We're spinning out of control in pursuit of `What do people want?' " he continued. "I've been around long enough to remember a time when we weren't worried about what people wanted. We did what we wanted, and people came along."

Sean Cullen, an actor, has spearheaded the drive for a national theater at the ground zero site.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 9th, 2003, 09:57 AM
This would be tremendous... perfect for this site and this city. I'm glad new and bold ideas are being thought about and not just shifting things from one place to this new one. I hope it happens.

September 14th, 2003, 11:54 PM
September 15, 2003

Following a Trend, Downtown Looks to the Arts


When the World Trade Center was conceived in the 1960's, its developers didn't worry much about the absence of museums, opera houses, symphony orchestras or jazz clubs in Lower Manhattan. Yet almost all involved in the planning to rebuild at ground zero have agreed on at least one thing: whatever comes next should include cultural institutions.

Developers have asked arts groups to submit proposals by today for the new world being formulated by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the rebuilding.

What has changed? Why are established uptown entities like New York City Opera and the 92nd Street Y now willing to consider a downtown location? Why are prominent theater people urging that a national theater be built there?

The answer can be found in part in Bilbao and Barcelona, Spain, and Manchester, England, as well as in Los Angeles and Detroit. By giving new urgency to notions of transformation, the destruction that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, has brought home to downtown Manhattan the phenomenon of urban renewal through culture.

"In the past 10 years or 15 years there has been a shift in terms of looking at the importance of culture," said Lynne B. Sagalyn, director of the real estate program at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. "There has been an emphasis on using arts districts as a focus of development. Museums are opening in all kinds of places where you wouldn't expect to see a whole bunch of culture. This is an international trend."

In Manchester last year the opening of the Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind, the master-plan architect for ground zero, was part of a $635 million dollar investment in culture over the last eight years. "What we see in Manchester, we can see in cities across the country," said that city's culture secretary, Tessa Jowell. "In every place cultural institutions have combined with more traditional regeneration projects to inspire civic pride and give us all a sense of place."

In Bilbao the metropolitan area's revitalization plan emphasizes the importance of cultural enterprises like the Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Concert and Conference Hall. In Barcelona the socialist Catalan government has tried to revitalize a poor neighborhood with the construction of a new museum and a Center for Contemporary Culture. In Los Angeles and Detroit new symphony halls are part of the phenomenon.

Of course New York isn't Manchester or Detroit or Los Angeles. But downtown developers have been looking at such places as role models for years. In the early 1990's Carl Weisbrod was already trying to figure out how to enlarge the economy of downtown New York. Mr. Weisbrod, then the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, collected recruiting materials from cities around the United States to see what they were doing to attract business. He said he was struck by how similar the formula was in almost every case.

"The need for cultural institutions stood out," he said. "Good schools and housing, which one would think would be very high on the list, were almost afterthoughts."

Mr. Weisbrod became president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, a business improvement group, in 1995. He began promoting downtown Manhattan as a cultural mecca with only modest success. A handful of museums opened, but the essential lure remained what it had always been: a trip to the Statue of Liberty and maybe Ellis Island, usually taken by tourists who bought some trinkets and T-shirts, ate a hot dog and went home. Hardly the stuff of an economic makeover. Even rudimentary marketing ideas like a tour package were stymied by the impossibility of buying advance tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty, making it difficult for visitors to plan other stops in the area.

But the horror of the Sept. 11 attacks turned attention downtown. In the discussions that accompanied the rapid push to rebuild, the quest for culture became an ideological demilitarized zone for local residents, artists, developers and their critics. The arts were seen as a shield protecting the reverential from the commercial and the tacky.

"In some respects it's a sacred site," said Herbert Gans, the sociologist, referring to ground zero. "If it gets too commercial, it sounds too crass. You put some culture in there, it makes it more respectable and more community minded."

It doesn't hurt that with business people interested, money will probably be available to help pay for building new arts centers downtown. "That's why we have so many people bidding," said Mitchell Moss, professor of urban planning at New York University. The logic of using the arts as a lure is impeccable, he added. "The arts are to New York the way golf is to San Diego," he said. "No one goes to San Diego for the arts, and they don't come to New York to play golf. People sort themselves out by the kind of activities that give them pleasure."

Michael Sorkin, an architect and critic whose office is downtown, expresses sharp disapproval of the reconstruction process in a new book, "Starting From Zero" (Routledge). Yet even he doesn't object to the cultural part. "I don't buy the whole package," he said in an interview. "I don't think we need the office buildings or the shopping malls. But I'd be glad to have the culture."

The notion of culture as a force for urban renewal certainly isn't new to New York City. In "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York," Robert Caro described the conception for Lincoln Center in 1957 as "razing 18 square blocks of slums, stretching north from the Coliseum and rearing on their ruins a huge, glittering cultural center that would house — in grandeur — not only university, opera and Philharmonic but a dozen other related institutions."

In retrospect the displacement of the 7,000 families living in those slums may seem cruel, especially so more recently as the Lincoln Center concept of a cultural cluster has fallen into disfavor. But it did alter a neighborhood almost precisely the way the planners envisioned.

"In that sense Lincoln Center was successful," said Alexander Garvin, who until April was the director of planning at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and is the author of "The American City," an important textbook on urban planning.

But he added: "Lincoln Center was conceived a half-century ago. Times have changed, and the arts like clothing have to be updated."

Just as the city's planners stepped back and re-evaluated the West Side in the 1950's, Mr. Garvin argues the same process is now underway downtown. He describes Lower Manhattan in developer's terms, as the third largest "downtown" in the United States, after midtown Manhattan and Chicago. If you accept this view, he said, the area's cultural resources are sorely lacking.

"It simply isn't in the ballgame with smaller cities like Boston and San Francisco," he said. "It was a mistake not investing in cultural facilities in Lower Manhattan. They aren't the only thing you need, but I'm saying they're an essential ingredient."

The downtown renewal is far from a mirror image of the project that remade the Upper West Side. The people who have come to live and work downtown are not poor. Rather they are seen as potential consumers of culture.

"You talk to major employers in the city of New York and they will tell you, when they talk candidly, that they've moved most of the employees that they can out of the city because it's a very expensive place," said Lawrence F. Graham, executive vice president of Brookfield Financial Properties, which owns the World Financial Center and is a significant player downtown. "So the people they have left are typically very high productivity, the people who can generate huge profits. Who are they? People between 25 and 40 who are smart and want to be in a very interesting urban place. Culture is part of the key to that."

Therein lies the future, until another idea comes along.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 15th, 2003, 02:09 PM
This is a world-wide "trend" now.

A center with a Nat'l Theater, NYC Opera, 92nd Street Y, 9/11 museum, NY Hist. Society/Museum of the City of NY Museum and who knows what else, creativily designed right next to the new transit hub? How can that NOT be a huge success (fingers crossed)?

September 16th, 2003, 11:13 AM
September 16, 2003

Arts Groups Vie for a Home at Ground Zero


The Wooster Group, an experimental theater company whose founders include Willem Dafoe and Spalding Gray; a nonprofit multiracial theatrical group that recently produced the popular new musical "Zanna, Don't!" off Broadway; and an international art-glass center that wants to offer demonstrations are just a few of the more than 70 arts groups that are now formally vying to be part of the ground zero redevelopment.

The proposals have come in response to an invitation in June by the site's planners, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, to submit ideas by 5 p.m. yesterday. The invitation was extended to arts groups all over the world. No figures were available yesterday on how many of the submissions came from outside New York City. But local groups are well represented.

The Wooster Group is interested in adding a 400- or 500-seat theater to its current 99-seat space at the Performing Garage in SoHo. The troupe wants to share such a space. "We want to partner with someone," said Elizabeth LeCompte, a founding member. The Wooster Group would use the Garage for developing work and presenting smaller productions. A new ground zero stage could provide a much-needed source of revenue, Ms. LeCompte said.

The group behind "Zanna, Don't!," the Amas Musical Theater, is looking to relocate from West 42nd Street to a theater that would have between 99 and 199 seats and 2,100-square feet of office space at ground zero.

"We want to establish a home and help that place be the cultural center," said Matt Morrow, the development director. Amas, founded in 1968, has an operating budget of $400,000 and is dedicated to bringing diverse racial, ethnic and religious groups together through the performing arts.

The Signature Theater Company has proposed a three-theater complex for ground zero to supplement its current home on West 42nd Street that would feature world premieres of both established and emerging playwrights. The complex would also include a book store, cafe and rehearsal studios.

El Museo del Barrio proposed a center for Latino arts and cultures to add to its location on upper Fifth Avenue.

The World Trade Center site would offer a more central location for UrbanGlass: New York Center for Contemporary Glass than its current home on the third floor on a side street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. "It would be very exciting for our institution to have that kind of visibility," said Dawn Bennett, the center's executive director. "There are people around the block from us who don't know we exist." Although UrbanGlass is a workshop space for artists, the center also has a retail shop and offers demonstrations and would like to increase its foot traffic.

UrbanGlass has proposed a 2,500-square-foot operation with a preliminary annual budget of about $1 million.

"The public loves demonstrations, and they'll travel some place that's very out of the way in order to see them," Ms. Bennett said.

The development corporation has not set a date by which a decision would be made. Site plans include a museum, a performing arts center and smaller cultural spaces. The proposals will be evaluated by the corporation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Among the larger institutions interested in ground zero are the New York City Opera, which wants to leave Lincoln Center. City Opera's proposal calls for 19 weeks of opera and 24 weeks of American music theater with matinees in a house open "from morning to midnight." The opera said it would put up two-thirds of the estimated $291 million cost and seek the rest in public support.

Other organizations in the running are the 92nd Street Y, which is considering a downtown branch; the Joyce Theater, which would like to add the World Trade Center site to its two dance stages in Chelsea and SoHo; and Hunter College, which is interested in moving its arts programs to Lower Manhattan.

"We could be a real anchor for downtown," said Jennifer J. Raab, president of the college.

The board of the City University of New York, Hunter's parent, has approved $96 million for a new arts building that the college hopes to build at ground zero, Ms. Raab said. She added that the college, which has an annual operating budget of $130 million, could fill 500,000 to 1 million square feet. "It doesn't have to be one building," she said. "We're interested in the idea of neighborhood as campus."

The program could include the college's graduate and undergraduate programs in studio art; an undergraduate film production major; a new graduate program in integrated media arts; and performing arts programs in music, dance and theater.

The college is also interested in starting a performing arts high school downtown and in building studios that could be used by local artists as well as by Hunter students.

Ms. Raab said she had been in discussions with the 92nd Street Y and with the TriBeCa Film Festival about collaborating. The development corporation's invitation was also extended to organizations that do not yet exist. Among these is the American National Theater, a group hoping to bring the best of the country's regional theater to ground zero.

While the national theater has a prominent roster of supporters — including the director Harold Prince and the actress Blair Brown — several people in the theater world said they were skeptical that the idea was viable. They also said they worried that such a theater might siphon off scarce funds from other theaters.

"There are so many great theater companies," said Virginia P. Louloudes, executive director of Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York, which represents the city's nonprofit theaters. "I don't agree that there is this need for another theater. Wonderful regional productions move to New York all the time."

"It would be hard for me to support," she added, "because there is only a finite amount of money to go around."

Sean Cullen, a stage and soap opera actor who is organizing the national theater, said he had no interest in taking support away from existing theaters. "The National Theater is in no way in business to put anyone else out of business," he said. "If anything, its purpose is to create business."

Cultural groups were asked to submit only preliminary ideas for the site, as well as some sense of their financial and management capacity to sustain their operations in a new downtown location.

The SoHo Repertory Theater, which suffered serious losses after the terrorist attacks, is planning a $4 million capital campaign that would go toward building 10,000 square feet at ground zero.

"We're part of the downtown arts landscape and would like to be considered," said Daniel Aukin, the artistic director.

Other downtown theaters, like the Flea, took themselves out of the process because of the financial hurdles. "You have to be able to show you have the money to be able to do this," Ms. Louloudes said. "It's very hard for small companies."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

September 16th, 2003, 04:07 PM
A lot of possibilites. I wonder if any office space could be set aside ofr the groups in the skyscrapers and not just in the center itself?

Also, if some of these groups don't get chosen, why can't they locate somewhere else in the area? That would truly create a cultural mecca downtown.

September 25th, 2003, 01:17 AM
Ground Zero Arts Proposals Are Complete


A total of 112 cultural groups submitted ideas for ground zero by last week's deadline, officials of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation said yesterday. The groups, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater and the New York Hall of Science, were responding to an invitation from the corporation, which is overseeing redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.

The corporation, together with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, will now evaluate the proposals' quality and financial viability. The organizations span large ones like the New York City Opera to smaller groups like MCC Theater.

"It is very much a range, as we'd hoped, of things that give us ideas," said Kate D. Levin, the city's commissioner of cultural affairs. Although building is not expected to begin for several years, by January the corporation, the city and the state plan to decide on a process for selecting which groups will use the more than 600,000 square feet set aside for cultural activity.

The American Museum of Natural History has suggested a world cultures institute devoted to research, symposiums and public programs.

A museum to honor the memory of Sept. 11 and the history of freedom has been proposed jointly by the Museum of the City of New York, the New York State Museum, the New-York Historical Society, the New York State Library, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, the New Jersey Historical Society, the New York City Police Museum and the New York City Fire Museum.

The Folksbiene, which calls itself the oldest continuous Yiddish theater in the world, has suggested a cultural center that would include The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, and the Workmen's Circle, an organization that fosters Jewish identity.

The New York Hall of Science in Queens has proposed Tech City, a center with exhibitions, a theater and classroom space focusing on technology.

Mabou Mines, the avant-garde theater company on the Lower East Side, wants to be part of the cultural programming at the site, but not to build a space of its own. MCC Theater, a nonprofit company, is interested in a 199-seat space there. The Paper Bag Players, the children's theater company, also wants to perform at ground zero.

The development corporation is expected to provide $200 million to $300 million to the organizations selected, but has emphasized that they need to be self-sustaining.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 2nd, 2003, 09:57 PM
December 3, 2003

Wanted: A Good Home for a Space-Starved Art


A New York season was once a must for dance companies. But in recent years some major troupes have bypassed the city, among them the Royal Danish Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. One reason is familiar in crowded New York: a lack of space.

Of course City Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center are familiar, well used (and expensive) major dance stages. And the city is dotted with small dance sites. But to many in the dance world, these two extremes — large halls and cozy downtown dance houses — are far from enough.

Enter the Joyce Theater and its director, Linda Shelton, who has been a persistent player in discussions about an arts complex at the World Trade Center site. The Joyce seeks to place dance at the front and center of the debate over how to redevelop Lower Manhattan, and central issue is space; that New York's dance card is full this year only underscores the demand for it.

What is needed, Ms. Shelton and other dance producers and company directors say, is a midsize-to-large dance theater (1,000 to 2,200 seats) with stages big enough to accommodate large companies with productions — classics like "Swan Lake," for example — that require more scenery than a backdrop and a few props.

City Center, a 2,750-seat theater with a rich dance history, is no longer affordable for many companies, though there are troupes that do well or well enough at its box office every year. Even if one or more sections of the center were closed to create a smaller house with a more realistic number of seats, the entire theater would still have to be rented and a full staff and services paid for.

Availability is also a problem with the city's other large theaters — the Metropolitan Opera House (3,718 seats) and the New York State Theater (2,737 seats) — which are home to resident opera and ballet companies and tend to have little bookable time.

The 472-seat Joyce, which rose from the shell of a grimy Chelsea movie theater in 1982, is one of the most widely recognized dance sites in the city. It is the theater that dancers graduate to after performing in the small downtown dance houses where reputations are made. Midsize companies from around the world perform there. But after the Joyce, there is nowhere to go for established troupes like the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Miami City Ballet.

"There are so many companies that require more wing or fly space and have audiences that cannot be accommodated in a 472-seat theater," Ms. Shelton said. "There is certainly enough product, enough companies, to go from the Joyce to a larger theater."

About a decade ago, Ms. Shelton began searching for an affordable site or building that would be smaller than City Center but bigger than the Joyce. She looked throughout the city, including the western perimeters of Chelsea before its real estate boom. For a time it looked as if there might be room for the theater in a proposed arts complex on West 52nd Street.

But a groundswell began much earlier, in the 1960's, when Charles L. Reinhart, now the director of the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C., began lobbying for a home for dance in New York. Several plans to make City Center, in Midtown, such a theater had been floated unsuccessfully, including a proposal by Howard M. Squadron, the center's chairman, in the 1970's. In 1995 Mr. Reinhart convened a meeting, attended by dance producers and representatives of most of the established troupes, to discuss the creation of a New York center for modern dance.

Nothing came of the meeting. But Mr. Reinhart has continued to promote the idea of a dance theater that would seat 2,200, like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, where he is artistic director of dance. That theater, which is large but intimate enough for good dance viewing, "is pretty close to ideal," he said.

In a 1999 report commissioned by the New York State Council on the Arts, Robert Yesselman, a dance administrator, wrote: "The need for an affordable, midsize theater designed as a New York center for contemporary dance is a real one. The absence of such a center is a severely limiting factor on dance's ability to build audiences, to foster the financial stability of New York City-based dance companies, to serve as a focus for fund-raising and marketing and to acknowledge contemporary dance's ongoing contributions to national and world culture."

Arlene Shuler, president and chief executive of City Center, agrees. "There needs to be a variety of venues for the wide variety of companies that perform in New York," she said in an recent interview. "We are one piece of that spectrum."

Ms. Shelton has met with Daniel Libeskind, the lead architect of the plan for the World Trade Center site, and with members of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the work. Even before Sept. 11, she had talked with the corporation about a possible large theater downtown.

"Our study suggests that 900 to 1,000 seats would be the ideal size," she said. "But we are re-evaluating the number of seats, which could go a bit higher."

The corporation's chairman, John C. Whitehead, said that he was "delighted that the Joyce is interested in becoming one of the key elements of our revitalization program" but that no final plans had been made.

Ms. Shelton's proposal includes a stage that is 150 feet wide and 50 feet deep, with wings and space to hang scenery. Requiring an estimated 115,000 total square feet, the building would include offices and glass-fronted street-level studios, where passersby could watch dancers taking classes and rehearsing.

"A lot of choreographers keep their creative process private," Ms. Shelton said. "I think that unfortunately makes dance more mysterious and keeps the public away." Lunchtime talks for downtown workers and residents would be another way to explore and demystify the art.

Ms. Shelton's model theater would be devoted to dance most of the time and would be available several weeks a year to nondance events like the Tribeca Film Festival.

"Dance has to be part of the theater's name," she said, offering International Dance Theater as an example. "This can't be a shared venue. If it is, none of the parties will be satisfied. It has to be a dance destination. It's dance's turn for its own major center in New York."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

February 11th, 2004, 01:50 AM
LMDC Summary Report on the Memorial Center and Cultural Complex February 10, 2004 (http://www.renewnyc.org/content/pdfs/ICI_report_2-10.pdf)

The following organizations will be among those invited to next-stage meetings
(in alphabetical order):
Memorial Center
* Organizations that may develop the curatorial approach or content for the Memorial Center include the Museum of the City of New York, New York Historical Society, New York State Museum, or a consortium of these and other institutions.
* Programming concepts from Project Rebirth and Sound Portraits Productions/Story Corps.
Performing Arts Center
* Joyce Theater Foundation
* New York City Opera
* Signature Theatre Company
* Additional programming from Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Tribeca Film Institute.
Cultural Buildings
* The Children’s Museum of the Arts
* The Drawing Center
* The Museum of Freedom
* The New York Hall of Science
* The building may also provide space for international public programs and educational offerings from organizations such as the 92nd Street Y.

* Interviews with aforementioned short list of institutions
* Invitations to other organizations that have the potential to contribute a unique or needed activity or program to the Complex
* Consideration of additional solicited and unsolicited submissions
March and April
* Further interviews with promising applicants
* Announcement of set of institutions proposed for inclusion in the Cultural Complex

[Note: The summary report is a pdf document of 13 pages that includes graphics of a revised site map showing the locations of the cultural buildings.]

February 13th, 2004, 01:13 PM
Plan for World Trade Center Cultural Complex Released

February 12, 2004

The LMDC has released a report detailing its vision for a World Trade Center cultural district. Plans include a 50-70,000 square foot memorial center, including artifacts from the 9/11 attacks; a 100-200,000 square foot performing arts center to the east of the WTC site; and 200-250,000 square feet of cultural buildings located adjacent to the old WTC’s north and south tower footprints.

Institutions short-listed for space at the complex include:

Museum of the City of New York
New York Historical Society
New York State Museum
Joyce Theater Foundation
Signature Theatre Company
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Tribeca Film Institute
New York City Opera
Children’s Museum of the Arts
Drawing Center
Museum of Freedom
New York Hall of Science
92nd Street Y

A final decision on which institutions will be included in the cultural complex is expected in March or April.

Sam Lubell


February 14th, 2004, 01:25 AM
Is the American Theater Company part of this, or is its location adjacent to the FT meant as something seperate?

They seem to have a good plan and a decent looking building. I liked the idea very much.

April 27th, 2004, 01:55 AM
April 27, 2004

Many in Dance World Give Backing to a Smaller Theater at Ground Zero


Many in the New York dance world are rallying behind the Joyce Theater's proposal to build a 900-seat home for dance as a cultural anchor for the World Trade Center site, favoring it over the New York City Opera's proposal to build a 2,200-seat opera house that would be used in part for dance in the off-season.

"If a 900-seat dance theater is not included in the overall plans, it will be a squandered opportunity," said Margaret C. Ayres, executive director of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, which has financed both the Joyce and City Opera. "That's the size dance house we need in this city, and we don't need another 2,200-seat house."

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is overseeing the downtown rebuilding effort, is evaluating the proposals, along with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. The corporation has said it will make a decision by the end of this month or early next.

Other performing arts groups vying for space at ground zero include the Signature Theater Company. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the TriBeCa Film Institute are also seeking to place some programming at the site. In addition, a museum component will be selected.

The Joyce proposal would add to the Joyce's 472-seat house in Chelsea and its 75-seat space in SoHo.

City Opera, which shares Lincoln Center's New York State Theater with the New York City Ballet and is seeking a new home, has proposed an opera house that would present the work of outside dance, theater and opera companies during the 27 weeks when it is not performing. City Opera has been in discussion with the American Dance Festival in North Carolina about programming 10 weeks of dance, for example.

"Our intention is to bring in international companies as part of the activity at that house," said Paul Kellogg, the general and artistic director of City Opera. Mr. Kellogg said the theater might also be used for Sept. 11 memorial presentations or community events.

While City Opera has been frustrated with the acoustics at the State Theater, Mr. Kellogg said that this was because the house was designed exclusively for dance and that a ground zero theater could be built to accommodate opera and dance. "Look at Covent Garden," he said, referring to the London stage that presents both. "This is not an unusual construction problem."

A recent informal survey by Dance/NYC, a service and advocacy organization for professional dancers, found that dance companies favored the Joyce proposal over City Opera's. The survey was sent by e-mail to 102 dance companies of varying size and 25 dance presenters and drew a 48 percent response rate.

"To think New York City needs or can fill another 2,200-seat theater is completely unrealistic," said Robert Yesselman, the director of Dance/NYC.

Dance professionals suggest that a new stage would hurt City Center, the 2,700-seat theater on West 55th Street that presents dance companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

These critics also warn of a domino effect: if City Opera left the State Theater, City Ballet would have to find a new co-tenant. If American Ballet Theater became that tenant, the Metropolitan Opera would have to find a new group to fill its theater during the off-season, and so on. In addition, in October Jazz at Lincoln Center is to open a 1,200-seat house at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, where it plans to present dance as well as music.

But Mr. Kellogg said international companies need backstage space, "which can never be found in New York except at the Metropolitan Opera, which is seldom available."

Dance experts say they are put off by the idea that dance would be imported as secondary programming to supplement City Opera's season. "I'm troubled by the notion of dance as filler," said Bethany Wall, the program officer in charge of New York City at the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, which gives about $500,000 a year to dance.

"Dance actually needs its own house," Ms. Wall said. "The needs of each organization and presenter are significantly different."

Perhaps the crucial questions, dance experts say, are how to sustain a large theater and whether Charles Reinhart, director of the American Dance Festival, would be able to cover operating expenses year after year if City Opera's plan were selected.

"When big companies come in, few of them can afford not to be subsidized in one form or another," said Ms. Ayres of the Sterling Clark Foundation. "If City Opera is trying to raise money, who will help raise the money for Reinhart? How is he going to raise the money to subsidize the costs of going into a house that big?"

Mr. Reinhart said strong work would attract large audiences and ample financing. "As I remember, when City Ballet moved from City Center to Lincoln Center, their attendance went up," he said. "It's a perception problem, and if something is perceived as important, people will come."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 25th, 2004, 08:41 PM
May 26, 2004


Worries Rise Over the Loss of Arts Focus at Ground Zero


With needed fund-raisers backing away and decision making stalled on the cultural component of a redeveloped World Trade Center site, a growing chorus of critics are questioning the effectiveness of the process and whether the project has gone off track.

Lost in the debate over whether an opera house can fill its off-season or whether a dance and theater space could together attract sufficient funds, some arts leaders and planning experts say, is the more fundamental question of whether either of these options lives up to the grand plans for Lower Manhattan's hallowed ground.

"How can the arts over time express the meaning and importance of what's happened here: that is the challenge," said Carl Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

Since 112 cultural institutions made proposals for ground zero in September, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation — with New York City and the state — selected 15 finalists in February, with two main candidates emerging: New York City Opera and a combination of the Joyce Theater, which presents dance, and the Signature Theater Company, which focuses on one playwright a season. A Museum of Freedom, details of which remain vague, is also expected to be picked for the site.

In requesting proposals the development corporation said that it was "in search of cultural institutions that will establish and maintain Lower Manhattan as a world-class cultural destination," one that "will honor and celebrate life while providing an appropriate setting for remembrance."

While no one argues with these goals, there is sharp disagreement about how to achieve them. Should a new performing arts center provide entertainment designed to appeal to international tourists? Neighborhood services for Lower Manhattan residents? Or a prestigious destination that would lure cultural New Yorkers downtown?

Similar disagreements surrounding the overall aims for rebuilding at ground zero sent the development corporation back to the drawing board in creating a master plan in July 2002. After public outcry that rejected the first round of designs as uninspired and overly influenced by business interests, new designs were solicited and displayed for all to see at the World Financial Center.

The cultural competition has been more closely guarded. The development corporation has not made the proposals available to the press or the public. This has left cultural organizations unclear about why they were eliminated and the public almost entirely excluded from the evaluation process.

Rick Gell, who submitted a proposal for ground zero, said he had not heard anything from the development corporation. Mr. Gell, the founder and former president of Second Line Search, a New York-based film research and licensing company, had proposed a Moving Image Museum of New York, which could include such things as archives from the WPIX News Collection and home movies of the trade center attacks. "Why has this been such a secretive process, outside of the public view?" Mr. Gell said. "Is moving the City Opera the best thing for New York — simply transplanting an existing institution as opposed to creating a new one?

"Does a Museum of Freedom serve local residents? What did the New-York Historical Society propose, and don't New Yorkers have a right to know before the decision is made? I believe in my concept, but wonder whether other good ideas are being pushed aside by politics and money?"

The historical society proposed a museum with several other institutions, including the Museum of the City of New York, the New York State Museum, the New York City Police Museum and the New York City Fire Museum.

Some say the main criterion should be what is best for New York, not what will lure tourists. "I have a favorite saying: If you do it for the local, the visitor will come," said Roberta Brandes Gratz, a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban planning at New York University who is also an adviser to the mayor, said an opera house is not in the city's interests. "This should be designed to help Lower Manhattan, not to help a cultural organization," he said. "The demographics of City Opera don't coincide with Lower Manhattan's future."

But others say that a big, established institution like City Opera is necessary if ground zero is to become a major cultural magnet. Cristyne L. Nicholas, president of NYC & Company, the city's tourism bureau, said the bigger the performing arts center, the better "to be able to compete with other cities."

Deborah Borda, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which recently moved into the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, said a stage like hers can be an economic engine. Disney Hall has helped spur a potential $1.2 billion development project in downtown Los Angeles.

"Because there are so many independent and smaller dance companies, I think to go for the larger gesture makes sense, particularly with the goal of urban development," Ms. Borda said.

City Opera proposed a 2,200-seat auditorium, which it said could be shared by major dance companies.

"It seems to us that what New York needs is a theater that can house performing arts organizations from all over the world as part of its season," said Paul Kellogg, the general and artistic director of City Opera. "If City Opera acts as an anchor tenant, we want to be able to present large international companies that would bring a kind of new life and vitality to the performing arts in New York."

The Joyce and the Signature — whose separate proposals have been combined by the development corporation — have suggested four theaters under the same roof, one at 900 to 1,000 seats for the Joyce and three for the Signature ranging from 99 to 499 seats.

"Any organization that's down there has to be reflective of the larger cultural dynamic," said James Naughton, the artistic director of the Signature.

The development corporation originally said it would announce a decision by early May. Instead the process has become bogged down and some of those involved describe an impasse they predict can be broken only by the governor.

Although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is also involved in downtown redevelopment, Gov. George E. Pataki is widely expected to have the final word on what happens at ground zero. It was Mr. Pataki who asked Sanford I. Weill, the financier, and Jerry I. Speyer, the developer, to lead the foundation charged with fund-raising for the memorial and cultural buildings. The two declined, extending the search, which some say has delayed the decision on a cultural component.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

May 26th, 2004, 12:50 AM
I don't know what would be better, but this...

"Rick Gell, who submitted a proposal for ground zero, said he had not heard anything from the development corporation. Mr. Gell, the founder and former president of Second Line Search, a New York-based film research and licensing company, had proposed a Moving Image Museum of New York, which could include such things as archives from the WPIX News Collection and home movies of the trade center attacks. "Why has this been such a secretive process, outside of the public view?" Mr. Gell said. "Is moving the City Opera the best thing for New York — simply transplanting an existing institution as opposed to creating a new one?"

sounds like it's already there...the Museum of TV and Radio and the American Museum of the Moving Image.

May 27th, 2004, 12:51 AM
May 27, 2004

Culture in Lower Manhattan

Ever since 9/11, there has been serious talk of including a strong cultural presence in the rebuilding at ground zero. It's worth remembering why. For all the gravity of the site itself, and for all the dignity of Michael Arad's memorial design, ground zero is about more than remembering the lives of those who died in terrorist attacks or the events that caused their deaths. It is also about the creation of new vitality. The emergence of a new cultural hub in Lower Manhattan is a way of going beyond memory, a way of enriching, fulfilling and reinterpreting the emotional context of 9/11 itself. We should visit ground zero to honor the victims and remember that day, but we should stay to celebrate life itself in a way that only the arts allow us to do.

For the past year, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has been preparing a short list of cultural entities that might occupy two sites — one in a new performing arts center just east of the planned Freedom Tower, and another cultural complex to the south, also at Fulton and Greenwich Streets. Two possibilities have been discussed from the very beginning — a so-called Freedom Museum, which has often sounded like little more than an excuse for vigorous flag-waving, and the New York City Opera, which has been hoping to find a new home outside Lincoln Center.

We love City Opera, but in the end, its proposal to build a 2,200-seat theater and expand its programming to fill those seats beyond its own operatic season seems to us too unwieldy for the setting. It is not so much a question of the wrong art as the wrong space.

The most interesting possibility is a mix of at least three different cultural entities on the two sites. One attractive combination would include the Joyce Theater, the Signature Theatre Company and the Drawing Center, along with a reimagined Freedom Center. They would bring together at ground zero the worlds of dance, theater and the fine arts, in a cluster of performing arts and gallery spaces that would fill the cultural calendar year-round.

The Joyce, the Signature and the Drawing Center were all planning to expand or move before 9/11, and they offer a diversity and a quality of cultural imagination that fits Lower Manhattan and would galvanize cultural life in that part of the city. Instead of a single 2,200-seat theater, there would be at least four theaters, ranging from some 200 seats to 1,000 seats.

Making this work will take someone with vision and energy — and political capital — to head a new foundation that will create the cultural center and the memorial. This isn't only a fund-raising opportunity, though that will certainly be part of the task. This is a chance to rebuild Lower Manhattan from the ground up, to amplify and illuminate the meaning of 9/11, and to light up the neighborhood.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 2nd, 2004, 08:38 PM
June 3, 2004

Arts Groups Call for Openness at Ground Zero


Lower Manhattan arts groups — concerned, in part, that a Freedom Museum has been selected for the World Trade Center site without public debate — are calling for greater transparency in the competition for a cultural presence at ground zero.

The critics say that the proposed museum may divert money and resources from existing struggling downtown institutions.

"You've got the Statue of Liberty down there, Ellis Island, Fraunces Tavern, Federal Hall, the American Indian Museum — they're all about some aspect of freedom," said Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney and chairman of Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City.

"You're taking money out of other organizations and putting it into something that nobody knows anything about," he added. "The Statue of Liberty hasn't been reopened because of a lack of funds."

Last June, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation invited arts groups worldwide to submit proposals for a museum and a performing arts center planned for ground zero. Since September, the corporation — together with the city and state — has been evaluating the 113 responses.

It was expected to announce its selections in April, but the decision has been delayed, in part by the difficulty of finding a chairman of the foundation charged with raising $600 million for the cultural buildings and a memorial. The development corporation has asked the cultural applicants not to discuss the specifics of their proposals.

On Tuesday, Councilman Alan J. Gerson of Manhattan stood on the steps of City Hall along with representatives of 30 downtown arts groups to call for greater openness in the development corporation's decisionmaking and for $25 million in grants to help existing cultural insitutions downtown .

"Unfortunately, residents, arts sector leaders, artists and local elected officials have had little or no direct say in any of these decisions so far," the councilman said in a written report, "and that does not bode well for a successful memorial/cultural fundraising campaign."

Kevin M. Rampe, president of the development corporation, defended its processes. "The right mix of cultural institutions on the site is not something that should be decided by public referendum," he said in an interview yesterday. "At the end of the day, we're going to work to create a great cultural center in Lower Manhattan."

Mr. Rampe denied that the Freedom Center, as the proposed freedom museum is now called, has an inside track. "We're considering all of the institutions now and there is a lot of frank and open discussion about the merits," he said.

But even some downtown officials say the Freedom Museum has been the leading contender for some time. They attribute this in part to political connections. The idea for the center originated with Tom A. Bernstein, who was a co-founder of the Chelsea Piers recreational complex with Roland W. Betts, who is a development corporation director and a close friend of President George W. Bush. The ultimate decision on the cultural component at ground zero is expected to be made by Gov. George E. Pataki.

The Freedom Center has already amassed some important allies, particularly American Express, which last year said it would contribute money to the museum. The center's planning group includes Daniel R. Tishman, chairman of Tishman Construction Corporation, which is overseeing construction at ground zero.

Mr. Bernstein said the museum would be nonpartisan. "It will be humble and not jingoistic in any way," he said. "It comes from a human rights sensibility. You will meet Natan Sharansky, Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Mother Jones, Susan B. Anthony — people of conscience who have changed the world."

Not all of the museums in Lower Manhattan are worried about the Freedom Center. Some organizations said they were grateful for the $4.7 million the development corporation set aside in 2002 to help market 10 downtown arts groups.

Ruth Abram, the president and a co-founder of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, is also a member of the Freedom Museum's planning group. Amy Northrop Adamo, director of the Fraunces Tavern Museum, said, "I think anything that is going to get more people downtown is going to be helpful."

While frustrated by the competition process, leaders of other cultural groups said they were unsure what level of transparency to expect from the development corporation.

"I'm not sure what it is — it's not a private foundation, it's not a government agency," said Alan J. Friedman, the director of the New York Hall of Science, in Queens. "It's easy to be paranoid — you don't know who's deciding, you don't know what criteria they're using." The development corporation said its process has been as open as possible.

The corporation has said it would contribute about $300 million toward cultural facilities at ground zero. Some downtown arts groups are concerned about competing for attention, having seen their own revenue decline since the terrorist attacks.

"This institution has been here for 35 years," said Paula M. Mayo, executive director of the South Street Seaport Museum, adding, "They should look to the people who have been standing by and steadfast before building something new."

"If it's freedom, if it's interpretation, if it's immigration," Ms. Mayo continued, "those are the stories that we're telling already."

Mr. Friedman of the Hall fo Science said that he had called the corporation about his museum's pending application "to make sure the rules of the game haven't changed."

"We have been told we are still in the running," he said. "So we are hanging in there."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 3rd, 2004, 12:07 AM
Originally posted by krulltime.

WTC cultural center down to seven finalists
Committee meets this week, will reach a conclusion soon

By Miriam Kreinin Souccar
Published on May 31, 2004

The committee charged with selecting arts organizations for the cultural center at Ground Zero is meeting this week and expects to make a final decision within the next month.

The number of competitors has been narrowed to seven, from the 15 finalists named in February by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.

"We've had numerous presentations from the finalists and studied every combination possible, and now it's a matter of making a decision," says a source close to the project.

Handicapping the finalists

While the LMDC declined to comment, sources with knowledge of the deliberations say that the Joyce Theater Foundation, the New York City Opera, the Signature Theatre Company, the Drawing Center, the Museum of Freedom and the New York Hall of Science are still in the running for a space at the site.

The 92nd Street Y is being considered for a slot in one of the buildings, but it may simply be asked to provide programming when the other arts groups aren't in session. If it were chosen to have a permanent site, it would most likely compete for the same space as the Museum of Freedom, according to sources involved in the process.

A decision has been delayed on what role would be played by groups that want to sponsor programs rather than run facilities. They are the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Tribeca Film Institute, Project Rebirth and Sound Portraits Productions/Story Corps.

The three remaining museums on the list--the New-York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York and the New York State Museum--are being considered as part of an interpretive museum on the terror attacks of 2001 and 1993 that will be built underground, below the World Trade Center memorial.

That museum is being planned by a separate committee, which includes historians, city officials and family members of the Sept. 11 victims.

The committee plans to issue a mission statement for that museum in the next two weeks. After that, it will decide who will run the museum.

One museum eliminated

But Kenneth Jackson, the outgoing president of the New-York Historical Society, says that his institution isn't likely to be interested in such a role. "We may want to be a content provider, but we might not want to be responsible for this," he says.

The only group dropped from the short list is the Children's Museum of the Arts. Sources say that the museum wanted just a tiny space and that the LMDC will help it find another site somewhere downtown. Elyssa Ackerman, acting executive director of the Children's Museum, says she has not yet heard anything about that decision.

New York City's arts institutions have been waiting anxiously for the final decision on what could emerge as the highest-profile cultural center in the world. The LMDC started out with 113 interested candidates and was supposed to announce the finalists by the end of April.

Repeated meetings with LMDC

The most contentious issue revolves around the performing arts center space and whether it will be awarded to City Opera for a $300 million opera house, or to the Joyce and the Signature Theatre, for a 1,000-seat auditorium for dance and three smaller theaters for plays.

Both the Joyce and City Opera have been called in repeatedly to present their plans to the LMDC. Each time, the Joyce has brought with it a major figure from the dance world, such as David Parsons, artistic director and founder of The Parsons Dance Company, to talk about how important the new theater would be for the dance community.

City Opera has been asked to show how it would fill up a 2,200-seat auditorium when it is on hiatus. The opera has come up with a number of plans, which include bringing in large international dance companies and teaming up with groups like the Asia Society to develop programming. Most recently, the LMDC asked City Opera to explain how it would turn itself into an arts programmer, not just an opera company.

"We are willing to run the theater year-round, and we can do it," says Paul Kellogg, general and artistic director of City Opera. "Once we get the theater and become presenters, we will add to our staff to accommodate all of this."

Doubts about City Opera

Officials involved in the decision say they aren't yet convinced. "There are concerns because this is an organization that doesn't typically do that kind of programming," says one official. "But there are concerns for each one of these organizations."

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

June 3rd, 2004, 06:42 PM
"Museum of Freedom" is another unneccesarily cheesy name. Things like that are out of hand.

June 6th, 2004, 08:49 AM
June 6, 2004

Back to Square One at Ground Zero


IT once seemed possible that the debate over ground zero's cultural activity would be less contentious than the debate over its office buildings. City planners, commercial interests and creative figures all agreed that art could help bring life back to the site of so much death. But discussions about which kind of programming can attract more visitors or generate more revenue or satisfy more neighborhood residents have obscured a larger burden: the World Trade Center is no ordinary site. What artistic idea would be sufficiently bold and soul-stirring to lead ground zero into its future?

The competition appeared to have come down to two imperfect contenders. The New York City Opera is a world-renowned, innovative institution with a loyal following. But a 2,200-seat opera house does not guarantee daytime activity or mass appeal, may be difficult to fill and does not directly serve the needs of local residents. A combination of the Joyce Theater, which presents dance, and the Signature Theater Company, which features the work of a single playwright each season, could add up to a multidisciplinary performing arts center. But the modest stature of these two institutions may lead to fundraising difficulties.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the city and the state were supposed to announce their decision in April. None has been made, and recent signs indicate they may be headed back to the drawing board. If so, now is the moment to rethink the entire project, to search for the best answers to the most trenchant questions, rather than the most expedient compromise. To jump-start the discussion, here are eight suggestions from the chief critics of the New York Times.

The cultural components proposed for ground zero haven't captured the city's imagination, and officials who will make the choice may be ready to start over.

More Studios, Less Propaganda

CITIES, like democracies, depend on a healthy mix of interests, and cities consist of neighborhoods, which, unlike commercial districts, don't shut down at 5 o'clock. Among what keeps a neighborhood going 24 hours a day are students, cultural attractions and the businesses to service them. So far the ground zero memorial looks mediocre, like the Freedom Tower, and who knows how the site's other office buildings will turn out. For the redevelopment to be a civic boon, officials can't now drop the ball, culturally.

First, they must stop the Museum of Freedom. It's a political sham and has nothing to do with culture. The ground zero memorial already has a museum for artifacts of the attacks and related displays. If it does what it's supposed to, it should speak to the relevant issues. World War II doesn't need a Freedom Museum to prop up its new memorial in Washington. Neither does ground zero.

Next, consider a facility for the art shows that don't make it to this city. Plenty of museums in town clamor for more temporary exhibition space but can't handle the cost. Let them share it, maybe with the government. See if institutions like the Whitney, the Guggenheim and Brooklyn might form a consortium. The expense need not be crazy.

Add students to the mix. Juilliard makes the neighborhood around Lincoln Center livelier. Artists need studios. They're fleeing Manhattan because of high costs. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council provided studios to artists in the World Trade Center. The council's new head, Tom Healy, reminds me that Columbia University and the New School are looking for more space for their arts programs. Here's an opportunity for them or for other institutions to find it — and not just studios for visual artists but also for musicians, actors, dancers. Neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens have been revitalized by artists who have abandoned Manhattan because they need room to work. Let's bring them back.

Civic development often starts where young people show up and have a reason to stick around. A neighborhood is not a place tourists go to shop or to visit a memorial. Ground zero remains the big test of our cultural aspirations. We can still meet them.

Not Another Lincoln Center

THE housing of various worthy, prestigious, philanthropically well-endowed arts institutions at ground zero will only serve to accelerate the cultural decline of New York City. The plans currently being discussed are all in the best of taste, which is why they should be rejected. We already have more than our share of monuments to polite culture — more than we can use, actually. Furthermore, the concentration of dance companies, museums, performance spaces and whatever else on newly developed acreage is a recipe for urban desolation. The last time such a thing was tried on a large scale, it produced the Lincoln Center complex, which has demanded respect for 40 years without inspiring much in the way of love. Why, on the site of our biggest civic catastrophe, would we want yet another middle-brow mausoleum?

At the moment, the city's culture is already top-heavy, and it is possible to glimpse a future in which all artistic endeavor will be divided between the multiplexes and megastores on one side and the philanthropically flush nonprofit institutions on the other. This would be not only a disaster, but a betrayal of the energies that have fueled New York's long reign as the nation's artistic capital. The city's defining movements and tendencies — from bebop to hip-hop, from Abstract Expressionism to graffiti art — have arisen from neither market research nor high-minded grant-grubbing, but from the ferment of the streets: from Bohemian enclaves stimulated by anomalies in the real estate law; from housing projects and working-class neighborhoods that bred tough-minded and resourceful dreamers; from accidental communities of migratory artists and root-sinking immigrants.

Of course, such fortuities can hardly be planned for, and too much planning is the surest way to kill them off. Accelerating gentrification and ambitious development can fertilize the fragile urban ecosystem in which new artistic forms and ideas crosspollinate and new audiences evolve, but they can also threaten them. Not much can be done to foster productive chaos within the confines of a small, expensive patch of real estate, but perhaps ground zero might become the site of a new kind of experiment. What if, instead of some faddish agglomeration of marble, glass and titanium, they threw up some dilapidated store fronts and abandoned industrial spaces, along with a few gap-toothed tenement blocks, and left the area's cultivation to the resourceful and entrepreneurial natives or outer-borough interlopers, who might plant storefront galleries, independent book stores, communal work spaces, music clubs — who knows what? Instead of a hothouse, where the hybrid blooms of official culture can be tended and preserved, why not the kind of vacant lot that able hands can turn into a garden? Instead of the civic condescension of the patron class, why not democracy?

Back to Basics: Twin Towers II

WHAT functions can we eliminate? What uses can we subtract? These seem to me among the most constructive questions that can be asked today about the planning of ground zero, particularly about cultural programming.

Up to now, the planners have been thinking along opposite lines. How much can we add, they ask, as if an accumulation of functions is needed to produce the desired lively effect. Opera house, museum, and so on: these proposals are signs of cultural failure. At best, they denote impatience to arrive at some creative response that really requires more time and thought. More ominously, they represent distractions from the forces that have mired ground zero in politics and propaganda.

As a result, I have recently become more sympathetic to the "cop-out" position, which would mean abandoning the flawed ground zero design process altogether in favor of reconstructing the twin towers more or less as they were. Certainly, I'm prepared to defend reconstruction as a cultural act. It would be an offering to Mnemosyne, mother of the muses, from whom all culture flows.

The reduction to essentials is a great New York tradition, evident in our engineering and in our art. It is the correct tradition to invoke here. And then, to insure its revival, I would propose a school, a center of unlearning as well as learning, a place for disembedding ourselves from the welter of fantasies that has enveloped the country in recent years.

A Home, at Last, For World Music

TWO-THIRDS of an old name could rebound if a redeveloped downtown had a World Music Center as its cultural core. Now that jazz is about to get a customized headquarters with Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall at the Time Warner Center, world music in New York seems more displaced and nomadic than ever.

The glorious historical accident that is New York City includes representatives from virtually every nation and culture. Yet world-music concerts get stuck in European-style auditoriums with alien formalities and time limitations, while dance music ends up in clubs where bar sales can take priority over decent sound. Cafe styles become background music for restaurant chatter. And community centers struggle to convince the children of immigrants that songs and dances from the old country are as cool as hip-hop.

Giving the world's music a home would be an architectural and organizational challenge. The center ought to have a riverside amphitheater for music meant to boom outdoors, and a mid-size auditorium with a waiver on tight union rules (or a huge overtime budget). It should include a snazzy dance hall, where a salsa band might play one night and a Serbian brass band could oom-pah the next. It needs a room of worship to hold music of spirituality and ritual. It could use an elegant, intimate room for styles that came from royal courts, and two or three quiet cafes — perhaps with chefs to match cuisine to the night's music.

The place would need booking geniuses with eyes and ears in the city's neighborhoods as well as abroad; those people exist. And with New York City's demographics, the place would never run out of potential performers: not just for evening events, but for daytime workshops, lunch-hour performances, wedding parties and maybe a morning raga weekly at dawn. Keep one cafe open 24 hours for solo acts.

Sure, it's a fantasy. But on the site where impassable cultural divides led to mass murder, a World Music Center would exploit and delight in New York's cultural propinquities and transcend lip-service tributes to diversity and tolerance. It's hard to hate people when you're dancing to their music.

Wanted: One Resident Genius

THE strength and joy of New York theater, like that of the city itself, is its dizzying diversity, its presence as a polyglot art that ranges from the Broadway musical's synthetic smoothness to the yelping idiosyncrasy of confessional performance pieces in cramped lofts. Which is why any single troupe or institution that might take up residence at ground zero is unlikely to mirror the collective vitality of the city's theaterscape. That includes the excellent, appropriately legacy-conscious Signature Theater Company, which focuses on a different American playwright each season and is a current front-runner in the ground zero cultural sweepstakes.

For me, the ideal — and who knows if this is remotely practical in economic terms — would be to have a theater space run by a super impresario-cum-booking agent who would cull from the rich smorgasbord of productions in the city that are limited to short, self-contained runs and have little chance of commercial afterlife. Every season provides its sad quota of such shows. Looking back over the last decade, I can only wonder that shows as vibrant as Christopher Durang's "Betty's Summer Vacation," Diana Son's "Stop Kiss" and, from the past winter, the exquisite revival of Michael John LaChiusa's "First Lady Suite" all had such fleeting existences before being consigned to that limbo where good plays go until enough time has passed to make them officially revivable. How wonderful to have a theater that would extend the accessibility of such shows, while helping turn ground zero into a mecca for the theatrically savvy. Of course, the project would require a manager with the energy, tenacity and connoisseur's appetite that, say, Harvey Lichtenstein brought to his 32-year tenure as the president and executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Has anyone, by the way, asked Mr. Lichtenstein for his ideas?

In Defense of City Opera

WHEN Paul Kellogg, the adventurous general and artistic director of the New York City Opera, announced his desire to relocate his company from the New York State Theater to a new house at ground zero, the proposal seemed both bold and risky. That area of lower Manhattan had no real history as an arts enclave, and there was good reason to fear that operagoers from far-flung areas of the city might be reluctant to travel so far. Now arts administrators all over town want in on the action.

But I still think that making the People's Opera, as Fiorello La Guardia once called the company, the mainstay of a new arts complex at ground zero is an inspired idea. The development would benefit from the strong profile that a major company like City Opera would provide.

I only wish that Mr. Kellogg, who has proposed building a 2,200-seat house, would — in the best sense — think smaller. The company needs a house that big, it says, to bring in enough receipts at the box office. But my fantasy would be to say: Money be damned! Let's build two theaters, one of 1,600 seats and another of no more than 600.

Most opera houses (and concert halls, for that matter) are way too big. Mr. Kellogg, who is also artistic director of the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y., with its ideally intimate house of just 900 seats, understands better than most just how visceral and exciting opera can be when presented in a modest space. You can make greater use of younger, good-looking singers whose voices may not be so big but who exude vitality.

A 1,600-seat theater would be big enough to help pay the bills but small enough to accommodate Baroque opera, chamber opera and, most intriguing, new and experimental opera. And theater companies, chamber orchestras and dance ensembles from all over the city would flock to a 600-seat performance space.

More Power to the People

UNDER the immutable law of unforeseen consequences, it doesn't matter what goes up around ground zero. Even the biggest folies de grandeur, like Franηois Mitterrand's $1.5 billion National Library of France, which was inaugurated in 1995 (by which time its curators had discovered that it was harmful to expose rare books to sunlight streaming through its glass towers), turn out to have their merits. The four modern towers, designed by the French architect Dominique Perrault to look like open books, are not in the least inviting. And yet people go, and some stay; the library has carved a whole new neighborhood of art studios, galleries and restaurants in a forlorn and forgotten part of the 13th Arrondissement.

Whatever plan New York settles on — an opera house, a children's park, space for artists — the project will inevitably have glaring flaws and small saving graces. As long as there is a reason for people to go there, life could flood back into a district of the city that by nightfall turned bleak and inhospitable even before the twin towers were toppled.

An American Pompidou Center

A NEW YORK version of the Pompidou Center in Paris would marry exuberance and meditation at ground zero. Creative center, performing space, museum and, very important, library, it would be a beehive of activity on all levels of an arts emporium: it would attract young and old, local visitors and tourists.

The Pompidou's brightly colored factory design prompted instant delight or denigration, but above all it drew crowds to both its art museum and outdoor plaza. More significantly, Pompidou housed France's first major walk-in public library.

At ground zero, a branch library for the (world) community would be a haven for reflection. But just as Pompidou has been home to Pierre Boulez and his music research group, this center would have studios to create new choreography, new plays, new music.

Art-making would be the focus but not without relevance to the past. A model is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, extremely popular among foreign tourists interested in how people lived. At ground zero, the museum would provide a look at New York's history in the visual arts. A 900-seat theater would sponsor performances emerging from the center and also present outside groups.

For reasons best known to itself, including the canard that George Balanchine (the most musical of choreographers) built a stage that deadens sound, New York City Opera wants to move from the New York State Theater to ground zero. Its putative opera house would be open to dance, as would a space operated by the Joyce Theater. Yes, New York needs a 1,000-seat dance theater, but to fill its schedule, it would inevitably resort to some kind of democratic (possibly mediocre) programming. Build that house elsewhere, not at ground zero — a special place.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 7th, 2004, 11:24 PM

June 7, 2004

The cultural institutions that will occupy a performing-arts center to be built at the World Trade Center site will be announced this week, according to a source.

The field of arts organizations vying for space has also been narrowed to six from a group of 15 named in February, a source familiar with the decision told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They are the New York City Opera, the Joyce Theater, the Signature Theatre Company, the New York Hall of Science, the Freedom Center and the Drawing Center, the source said.

The new arts center could house as many as four of the groups. Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are expected to announce the selection this week.

The finalists have been culled from a list of 113 proposals that were sent to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is overseeing the trade center redevelopment, after it sent out a worldwide invitation last summer.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings

June 10th, 2004, 03:59 PM
Joyce Theater shuts out City Opera at Ground Zero

June 10, 2004

The Joyce International Dance Center, the Signature Theatre, the Drawing Center and a new museum dedicated to freedom were chosen to provide arts programming at the cultural center at Ground Zero, shutting out the City Opera, which had been considered the front-runner.

New York City's arts institutions have been waiting anxiously for the final decision on what could emerge as the highest-profile cultural center in the world. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which announced its decision today, started out with 113 interested candidates. The New York Hall of Science had also been on the shortlist.

The decision is a huge blow to the reputation and morale of City Opera, which has put enormous amounts of time and energy into its proposal. The company remains determined to leave its current space at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, say industry watchers, and so will have to find a new space somewhere else.

City Opera had been asked to show how it would fill up its proposed $300 million, 2,200-seat auditorium when it went on hiatus. The opera had proposed taking on the additional role of arts programmer, bringing in large international dance companies and teaming up with groups like the Asia Society to develop events. But presumably the plans were not convincing enough.

Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc

June 10th, 2004, 10:08 PM
June 11, 2004

4 Arts Groups Chosen for Complex in Lower Manhattan


Dark rectangles represent buildings planned for the arts groups.

Pledging to reinvigorate cultural life in Lower Manhattan, state and city officials yesterday announced the selection of arts groups devoted to dance, theater and drawing, along with a museum celebrating freedom, as the cultural anchors for the World Trade Center site.

The project - which still must surmount substantial financial hurdles - would remake the city's cultural landscape by creating a major downtown arts complex comparable to Lincoln Center and the National Theater in London.

In an upbeat news conference at the World Financial Center, Gov. George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and officials of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation congratulated the chosen institutions: the Signature Theater Company, the Joyce Theater, the Freedom Center and the Drawing Center.

The announcement was the culmination of a competition that was criticized as opaque by some arts and community leaders and was drawn out by a clash of interests over what constituency culture should serve at ground zero: Tourists looking for something to do at night after visiting the memorial? Families of the victims seeking art that will honor their lost loved ones? Neighborhood residents who want services like after-school art classes for their children? Or culture hounds craving a new downtown arts destination?

Development officials said yesterday that they had aimed at all of the above.

"This is sacred ground," Mr. Pataki said. "We wanted to have cultural institutions that would reflect our pride, our courage."

Mr. Bloomberg said the new cultural complex "would go a long way towards reinvigorating the World Trade Center site" and creating "a renaissance in Lower Manhattan."

Left unanswered was how the fund-raising burden for the new cultural buildings would be divided among the arts institutions and development corporation. And no one has been named to head a foundation charged with raising money for the buildings and the memorial planned for the site. Several financiers have turned down the foundation job, and downtown officials are now expected to assemble a group of people to share it.

John C. Whitehead, chairman of the development corporation, had favored New York City Opera as the principal cultural tenant at ground zero, in part because he believed the opera would more easily attract large donations than the lesser-known Joyce and Signature theaters.

The development corporation will pay $3 million to underwrite the next six-month phase of the planning process, during which the four selected cultural groups will be expected to come up with more specific financial proposals and space requirements. Half the money will go toward a performing-arts building to be shared by the Joyce and Signature groups and half toward the other cultural building, to be shared by the Freedom and Drawing centers.

Additional programming is expected to be provided by the TriBeCa Film Center and by the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, though the specifics of those arrangements have yet to be worked out.

In the next phase, the federally financed development corporation will offer challenge grants to assist the institutions in starting their fund-raising efforts, Mr. Whitehead said. The amount of the challenge grants has not been determined.

Also unclear is whether the arts groups will be designated members of the Cultural Institutions Group, the consortium of 34 arts organizations owned by the city or based on city land that benefit from city support for maintenance, utilities and capital needs.

The cultural buildings and the memorial have been projected to cost about $600 million; the development corporation is expected to contribute about half that amount. Now that the specific institutions have been chosen, those figures may be revised, development officials said. The Joyce, for example, estimated the cost of building its new stage at $60 million to $70 million, but that was before the corporation paired it with the Signature Theater.

The creation of a new cultural gathering place is significant on many fronts. It will shift the center of the city's arts activity away from midtown, creating downtown competition for Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and City Center. It remains to be seen, though, whether New York's traditional cultural consumers will be willing to make the trip downtown and, if they don't, whether new audiences from Brooklyn and New Jersey will offset their loss.

Yesterday's announcement also has profound implications for City Opera, which is eager to leave the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center because of the acoustics. The opera fought hard to be selected and was at one point widely considered the leading contender.

That it was not chosen represents something of a defeat for Mr. Whitehead, an opera fan who championed City Opera all along as the strongest choice for downtown. Asked yesterday whether he was disappointed, Mr. Whitehead, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, said, "I'm very happy with the choices," and refused to comment further.

Paul Kellogg, the general and artistic director of City Opera, said that Mr. Whitehead had been the one to deliver the news to him yesterday morning by phone.

"We will regret not being part of the larger downtown cultural community," Mr. Kellogg said. "But we're going to continue being part of Lincoln Center and serving our audience here while we look for a new home that will help City Opera realize its potential."

The other losing finalist yesterday was the New York Hall of Science in Queens. "I'm disappointed," said Alan J. Friedman, the hall's director. "We will continue our goal of having a Manhattan satellite elsewhere."

The City has always had its share of arts activity below 14th Street. There is a rich mishmash of small theater companies and dance groups in Lower Manhattan, as well as more than a dozen museums - several of which are concerned about whether a new arts center will siphon off their own support. But downtown art has typically been associated with alternative culture that serves an adventuresome neighborhood audience or those willing to take the subway, navigate industrial side streets and sit on folding chairs.

The cultural complex proposed for ground zero, by contrast, envisions a mainstream operation that would appeal to tourists from around the world, as well as to all New Yorkers.

The Joyce Theater's International Center for Dance would add a 900-seat to 1,000-seat theater to its existing stages in Chelsea and SoHo, along with a cafe and gift shop. The Signature Theater would replace its current home on West 42d Street with the Signature Center, a performing-arts complex of three different-sized theaters, a bookstore and cafe, and a space for festivals, seminars and community events.

The Freedom Center was created expressly for the site in the tradition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The Drawing Center plans to replace its current space on Wooster Street with galleries for the exhibition of historical and contemporary drawings, as well as spaces for public and education programs.

Creating a new arts campus is not without its risks. Lincoln Center has become a lesson in both the potential and pitfalls of concentrating many different institutions on one piece of land. The center has become the world's preeminent performing-arts institution, but its arts groups have also struggled to find the balance between working together and competing with one another for artists, audiences and donors.

Playwrights Champion a Theater That Championed Them


The success of the Signature Theater Company is, in the end, irrefutable evidence of the power of one good idea. In 1991, James Houghton, then an aspiring director in his early 30's, came up with a plan for a theater company whose mission was deceptively simple: each season would be devoted to one playwright, who could do any of his or her work, new or old.

That idea grew into the Signature, and proved to be savvy on a number of levels: it allowed the playwright a sense of ownership (not to mention a nice ego boost), while also providing a nifty hook for news coverage. It also built strong relationships between the theater and its chosen playwrights, connections that would play a major part in the company's selection yesterday as a resident company in the new cultural complex at the World Trade Center.

That selection is remarkable considering the Signature is but 13 years old - the Public Theater, by comparison, was founded in 1954. For its first six years, the Signature was an itinerant company, producing shows everywhere from a 99-seat house in Greenwich Village to the Public itself and finally to a more spacious theater on the far western end of 42d Street.

In 1999, the 42d Street space became known as the Peter Norton Theater, after Mr. Norton, the millionaire who made his money slaying computer viruses, donated $600,000, a gift that, in effect, announced that the Signature had joined the upper echelons of New York City's nonprofit companies.

More than its fund-raising prowess, however, what has set Signature apart is the longstanding relationships it has built with some of America's best-known playwrights. Among others, Signature playwrights have included Edward Albee (1993-94), Horton Foote (1994-95), Sam Shepard (1996-97), Arthur Miller (1997-98), John Guare (1998-99), and Maria Irene Fornes (1999-2000). Future seasons will take on the work of Paula Vogel (2004-05) and August Wilson (2005-06).

The Signature enlisted the support of some of those playwrights, along with more than 200 other artists, in making its pitch for a place at ground zero. The actor Ed Norton, who serves on the theater's board, met with Gov. George E. Pataki on behalf of the Signature.

Mr. Albee wrote in support of the company's "unique and invaluable work." Mr. Miller hailed its "intelligence and inspired selections of artists." And so on.

The Signature's new home will have three theaters instead of the one it now operates, requiring an ambitious new slate of programming and an expansion of its one-year, one-playwright formula. Tentative plans for the opening season in 2010-11 call for nine major productions a year, and a new rotating residency for so-called "emerging and mid-career playwrights."

Music and dance will be added to the Signature's presentations, as will a series of world premieres of its so-called "master playwrights" in their largest theater, a 499-seat proscenium. There will be a cafe, a bookstore, a gallery and rehearsal studios.

For Mr. Houghton, this larger canvas remains consistent with the theater's original goals; it merely includes more writers at various stages of their careers. "It's the same idea," he said. "We're not drifting away from our mission. We're just expanding the notion of what it encompasses."

Dance Establishment Gets Chance to Extend Its Audience


The Joyce Theater in Chelsea has become so much a part of the everyday life of dance in New York City that it is hard to remember the excitement of its opening, on June 2, 1982. A handsome new 472-seat Art Deco theater had risen from the remains of an art film house turned pornography house on the southwest corner of Eighth Avenue and 19th Street.

Itself a validation of a perennially struggling art form, the Joyce provided a crucial stage for medium-size dance companies too big for intimate downtown spaces like Dance Theater Workshop and Performance Space 122, but too small for the 2,750-seat City Center on West 55th Street.

The creation of the Joyce, from the purchase of the movie theater to the first dance performance, took a mere two and a half years of work by only two people, though both were well connected in the arts in New York City. One was Cora Cahan, who went on to become president of The New 42nd Street Inc. The other was the choreographer Eliot Feld, who envisioned the theater in part as a home base for his ballet troupe. Theirs was "one of the most extraordinary exercises in tenacity and in will to survival within the dance world," Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The New York Times in 1981.

Today, the Joyce has become a dance destination, and has a loyal audience with an appetite for just about any kind of dance, performed by companies from around the world. And now the Joyce has taken another major step toward the further institutionalization of dance in New York City.

Its proposed 1,000-seat theater, selected yesterday as part of the cultural component for the World Trade Center, means there will be a much-needed home for dance companies too big for the Joyce (or whose productions would not fit into that Chelsea theater) but not ready for a large, relatively expensive theater like City Center. The Joyce's history of audience-building and participation in the development of a once-grimy part of Chelsea played a role in its selection. Its proposal to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation emphasized its 20-year track record in raising funds and its plans for drawing downtown workers and tourists to dance performances in Lower Manhattan with a "day and night operation" offering diverse, multicultural programming; community and school programs; artist residencies; lectures; and open rehearsals.

It took Linda Shelton, executive director of the Joyce, a decade of exhaustive pavement-pounding, proposal writing and meetings with real estate agents and donors to push through her vision of this larger theater. Ms. Shelton, formerly general manager of the Joffrey Ballet and manager of the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, was appointed director in 1992. Four years later the Joyce bought the endangered Dia Center in SoHo, a 75-seat theater for new dance, and has maintained it since as the Joyce SoHo.

Artistically, the range of possible participants in the Joyce's sample 2010 season sounds like a dancegoer's paradise. And yet, even some fans of the Joyce worry about a single taste or mindset governing the selection of companies that perform in the Joyce theaters, which could handicap New York dance more than the lack of a 1,000-seat theater would.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 11th, 2004, 12:57 AM
I like the selection...multiple spaces of different sizes. Art, dance, theater, and a museum in one venue. It will be great. What's going on with the other cultural space that is next to the FT?

I think City Opera should combine with the Guggenheim on a venue by the Javits/Jets. This will really set this area off.

June 11th, 2004, 01:24 AM
I think City Opera should combine with the Guggenheim on a venue by the Javits/Jets. This will really set this area off.

Yeah! billyblancoNYC you sure hit the bird on this one. Of course that makes total sense.

I can see it now. A venue of art, entertainment and theater in the West side along with residential and offices.

Cool isn't it. :wink:

June 11th, 2004, 03:51 AM

By Stephanie Gaskell
June 11, 2004

Failing to tap a big-name cultural institution for Ground Zero, redevelopment officials announced yesterday that four less well-known organizations were selected yesterday to occupy future new buildings at the site.

The four institutions — the Joyce International Dance Center, the Freedom Center, the Signature Theatre and the Drawing Center — were chosen from 113 candidates.

Among the well-known groups that had been considered but didn't make the cut were the New York City Opera, the Museum of the City of New York, the New-York Historical Society and the Tribeca Film Institute.

Mayor Bloomberg, who attended the ceremony at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center, said it was difficult to choose just four.

"You can't pick everybody," he said.

Actor Edward Norton, who attended on behalf of the Signature, called the final four "the underdogs" and said it took "a lot of boldness" to get behind them.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc

June 11th, 2004, 09:27 AM
"That it was not chosen represents something of a defeat for Mr. Whitehead, an opera fan who championed City Opera all along as the strongest choice for downtown. Asked yesterday whether he was disappointed, Mr. Whitehead, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, said, "I'm very happy with the choices," and refused to comment further. "


Maybe they'll put the City Opera in the new GS headquarters...

June 12th, 2004, 01:44 AM
June 12, 2004


Rejection Won't Stop City Opera's Quest


Sadly, Paul Kellogg, the general and artistic director of the New York City Opera, was not at all surprised that his proposal to move his company to ground zero was rejected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The powers that be have seemed allied against the plan for some time. Reached by phone on Thursday he said that he and his company would "absolutely continue to look for a new home."

Though he would not give details, Mr. Kellogg said that he was currently in the midst of investigations and negotiations involving four alternatives, including existing theaters that could be renovated and potential sites on which a new house could be constructed. "I am not deflated," he said.

Despite his brave talk, however, the rejection of this proposal represents an enormous setback for this innovative company. It's hard to think of another arts organization in New York that is so hobbled by its performance space. The New York Philharmonic can give you a long list of persuasive reasons for its dissatisfaction with Avery Fisher Hall. Still, on a great night at the Philharmonic when the music-making is exhilarating, few people in the audience think about the hall's shortcomings, acoustical or otherwise. But even on great nights at the City Opera — and the company keeps supplying them — one can't help wondering how much more impact a production might have, how much better the individual performances would come across, in a more intimate and acoustically lively opera house.

Having to share the New York State Theater with the New York City Ballet is only part of the problem. The company has long been unfairly overshadowed, literally, by the Metropolitan Opera, which looms just across the plaza at Lincoln Center. The City Opera has managed to carve a distinct and valuable mission for itself. You may not hear singers with international renown in City Opera productions. But you will hear younger, eager artists who look like the roles they portray and are excited to be part of a company that strives to present opera as a vibrant form of theater. With more to gain by taking risks, the City Opera tends to present bolder, cutting-edge productions as well as a more diverse repertory that you will ever encounter at the Met, including neglected 20th-century works, new and recent operas, and an increasingly important and hugely successful venture — Baroque opera. The company has become New York's premiere Handel house.

Having a theater that was designed with the City Opera's mission in mind, preferably a place far removed from Lincoln Center, would help the company make its case and shake off perceptions that it is some second-tier and cheaper Met. Mr. Kellogg has been spoiled, in a sense, from his many years of running the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y. That summer company performs in a 900-seat theater that Mr. Kellogg calls, with scant exaggeration, I think, the "world's best opera house." The auditorium is excitingly intimate and acoustically alive, but the stage is large and the backstage facilities more than adequate.

Many operagoers who frequent both places have had the experience of being enthralled by a performance at Glimmerglass, like the director Francesca Zambello's gripping and poignant production of Gluck's "Iphigιnie en Tauride" or the director Mark Lamos's colorful and fanciful production of Britten's "Paul Bunyan," only to be let down when that same production was later presented at the State Theater.

Mr. Kellogg's exasperation with the State Theater grew so great that several years ago he took the controversial step of installing what the company calls a "sound enhancement" system to augment the auditorium's acoustics. Though this system is far removed from the type of amplification that is standard on Broadway, which depends on body microphones, it still involves an electronic enhancing of the voices and orchestra.

When early on in the deliberations over the development of ground zero Mr. Kellogg put forth his proposal, some members of the Lower Manhattan Development Board, fortified by a survey of community opinion in the neighborhood, questioned whether a 2,200-seat opera house might be too large, too awkward and too high-culture an institution for a site that was destined to become so important to New York's future. The "too high-culture" charge rankled all opera lovers, especially fans of the City Opera, which Fiorello H. La Guardia famously dubbed "the people's opera."

As to the other objection, that ground zero might be better served by a diverse array of smaller companies, Mr. Kellogg argued, and I supported him on this, that the development would benefit by the presence of a major company with a strong profile, a built-in audience base, a solid endowment and a proven history.

But as I rooted for Mr. Kellogg's proposal, I worried that he might have erred by, in a sense, thinking too big. The developers were put off, it now seems, by the idea of a large opera house. Rather than being the anchoring institution of a performing arts complex, a theater of 2,200-seats might have been too looming and dominant, some developers clearly indicated. So, why not, I wondered, build a 1,000-seat opera house with excellent backstage areas and a large stage? A Glimmerglass Theater in Manhattan? There would be nothing like it in any other American city.

In the recent interview, Mr. Kellogg pointed out that ticket sales at Glimmerglass cover only 35 percent of the operating cost. Heavy-duty fund-raising supplies the rest. He reiterated his belief that a 1,000-seat house, even if equipped with excellent backstage facilities, would be too small to be commercially viable, at least in a culture like America's, which is so loath to support arts institutions with state funds. He singled out the home of the Royal Opera and Ballet at Covent Garden in London as proof that a 2,200-seat house can have a genuine feeling of intimacy and excellent acoustics.

So, Mr. Kellogg will stick to his vision of finding a home for City Opera of at least that size. But he is determined to find it — or renovate it or build it from scratch — despite this latest disappointment. Still, the comment of one City Opera staffer I spoke with seemed to sum up the true feelings of the company right now: "What a bummer."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 14th, 2004, 10:35 PM
June 15, 2004

Cultural Decisions at Ground Zero Affected by Lincoln Center


Design for a City Opera house by Rafael Viρoly to fit in with Daniel Libeskind's overall ground zero plan.

When it came time early this month for a final decision on the cultural presence at the World Trade Center site, city and state officials' focus was in large part on what would be best for a cultural site some five miles to the north — at Lincoln Center.

During a meeting at City Hall, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pointed out that New York City Opera, which wanted to move downtown, was an economic linchpin of the city-owned New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. City and state officials who attended the meeting said that Mr. Bloomberg asked, in effect: If you take away my tenant, who is going to pay the rent?

The city's financial concerns took on added weight as it became clear that the political ground had shifted, at least under this particular facet of ground zero decisionmaking. Gov. George E. Pataki, who has taken the lead in most of the big decisions about the trade center site, decided not to weigh in strongly about the cultural buildings, state officials said.

By last Tuesday, when Mr. Pataki met with John C. Whitehead, the chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and other rebuilding officials, even Mr. Whitehead — who had continued to champion City Opera's move to the trade center site — recognized that he was nearly alone, said a state official who attended the meeting.

That was despite the previously undisclosed lengths that the opera company went to in trying to keep its prospects alive, like revising its plans repeatedly and obtaining designs from top architects for a cantilevered opera house squeezed into the allotted cultural space. (Several city, state and cultural officials spoke about the process on the condition of anonymity, citing the political sensitivity of the discussions.)

The result was a plan announced last week that aims to install the Signature Theater Company and the Joyce Theater in a performing arts building and a Freedom Center museum and the Drawing Center in another building.

The outcome was not always clear, however. Like most efforts at ground zero, it involved last-minute lobbying and a seemingly endless series of designs and plans to determine an appropriate cultural mix for the site of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

The decision is expected to be approved by the development corporation's board next month. Early in 2002 City Opera officials were already meeting with Mr. Whitehead and others, seeking support for a move downtown. In Mr. Whitehead, a retired Goldman Sachs executive, they found a sympathetic ear.

An opera fan, he came to believe the City Opera was one of the few New York institutions with sufficient weight to anchor the cultural offerings he envisioned for the trade center site. Mr. Whitehead did not respond to a request for an interview.

But roadblocks to the proposal soon surfaced, among them the question of whether the physical requirements of an opera house could be accommodated in the architect Daniel Libeskind's conceptual design for the site.

City Opera said it needed a 2,200-seat theater to make the move a financial success, but planners at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation doubted that such a large hall would fit on the site.

Redevelopment officials also wondered what would fill the auditorium in the 30 weeks per year that City Opera was not performing or rehearsing. Unlike some other cultural institutions, City Opera did not have much experience in programming, the often-difficult art of inviting and scheduling performances by traveling dance and music troupes. That left the prospect of a big theater sitting empty for much of the year.

City officials involved in the process had other concerns, too, including the impact that a new opera house might have on sites like Carnegie Hall, City Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Nearly every cultural institution was already feeling economic strain in the aftermath of 9/11. Lincoln Center, meanwhile, was in danger of being diminished, as well, with the New York Philharmonic floating plans last summer to move to Carnegie Hall.

But City Opera pressed on.

Rejecting proposals from rebuilding officials that they consider other sites away from ground zero, opera officials asked Mr. Libeskind to figure out, conceptually, how to fit an opera house into his ground zero scheme. At the same time, Rafael Viρoly, the New York-based architect, offered his own version of a possible vertical opera house. Mr. Viρoly was one of the creators of a rival ground zero plan that came in second to Mr. Libeskind's.

"We wanted to show there was room," said Paul Kellogg, general and artistic director of City Opera.

Both Mr. Viρoly and Mr. Libeskind came up with plans that would allow an opera house to work on the site, using a taller building with a portion of the auditorium cantilevered over the street. Development corporation officials said they thought those proposals ultimately were too costly or provided too little public space for operagoers.

Downtown residents and other cultural institutions also were weighing in, both publicly and behind the scenes.

The heaviest lobbying, however, came from some of the institutions themselves. Mr. Pataki spoke with Edward Norton, the actor, who is on the board of the Signature Theater Company, among others.

Several people involved in the process said that Lincoln Center officials did not personally lobby against City Opera at the mayor's office or the development corporation. But Mr. Bloomberg was familiar enough with the issues; he contributed $15 million toward Lincoln Center's redevelopment plan before becoming mayor, an anonymous gift at the time. He also used to serve on the center's board and remains close to Beverly Sills, the former chairwoman of Lincoln Center who now is chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera. Through a spokesman, Mr. Bloomberg declined to comment.

Although Ms. Sills made her career at City Opera, she has at times opposed the company's positions on Lincoln Center's redevelopment. And though City Opera has complained about the acoustics in the State Theater, she has said they were fine for her.

"I've always said I hope they stay at Lincoln Center," Ms. Sills said in an interview.

Mr. Bloomberg was also influenced by Kate D. Levin, the commissioner of the city's department of cultural affairs, who knew well the city's financial commitment to Lincoln Center. The city has contributed $7.7 million to the State Theater's capital maintenance during the last 14 years, according to department figures. And having committed $240 million to Lincoln Center's redevelopment project under the Giuliani administration, the city had already made clear that no additional capital funds would be available to the campus.

City Opera, meanwhile, found itself unable to get the mayor's ear. Mr. Kellogg said the opera had requested meetings with Mr. Bloomberg but had been turned down. "Certainly City Opera wishes we'd been given an opportunity to meet with the mayor before a decision was made," he said.

Many of the organizations that submitted proposals for ground zero "sought individual meetings to lobby the mayor but meeting with any of them would have undermined the selection process," said Edward Skyler, the mayor's press secretary.

By the time officials from the development corporation came to brief him on the cultural proposals shortly after Memorial Day, the mayor's mind appeared to be made up. "The mayor said that he was now confident that the hole that City Opera would leave at Lincoln Center was not fillable, the city would be called upon to pay for it, and he didn't want to pay for it," said one person involved in the process.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 14th, 2004, 10:36 PM
June 15, 2004


So What Impact Will Art Centers at Ground Zero Have (if Any)?


So what's next? Now that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has made its choices for the cultural institutions at the World Trader Center site, what will be the likely impact on the social and artistic fabric of Lower Manhattan and New York City?

Put aside for the moment speculation as to whether the Joyce Theater, the Signature Theater Company, the Drawing Center and the as yet nonexistent Freedom Center will actually raise the requisite money, matched to whatever degree by public funds. Or that whatever other organizations making use of these two new cultural centers — the TriBeCa Film Center and the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble have been mentioned so far — will complete their end of the bargain.

Each of the candidates was asked to present a hypothetical-use plan for what is projected as the opening season of 2010-11. The result is dazzling, multicolored grids showing humming activity from dawn to past dusk. Assuming what is for now a purely hypothetical wish list, no one can really say what the appeal of these offerings will be. The myriad envisaged dance and theater performances and workshops and run-throughs and open rehearsals and panel discussions, not to speak of the ongoing exhibitions at the Drawing and Freedom Centers, will eventually attract some combination of tourists and arts lovers from the neighborhood and uptown and beyond.

What is clear is that the very name of the body that made these choices — a "development corporation" — indicates the true rationale behind its selection, and behind the decision to involve arts organizations in the first place. The winners were picked not because anyone gave first thought to their worthiness as art, but because they represented a canny mix of institutions likely to make downtown a better place to live and do business. The council's projections are murky extensions of the present, and hence are likely to be as amusingly off the mark as the cities of the future based on the models of late-19th-century industrialization or Art Deco style.

Arts gentrification tends to work best in this city when applied to underutilized old industrial neighborhoods, rather than already-crowded residential districts, as with the leaderless arts-infestations of SoHo and the Brooklyn neighborhood known as Dumbo. For all of Harvey Lichtenstein's noble efforts to invigorate the area surrounding the Brooklyn Academy of Music, that cultural beacon has not yet exactly transformed the rundown blocks around it. And if it did so, the transformation could have invidious social and racial consequences, shoving the poor further out to the margins.

Lincoln Center did eventually have a profound effect on the Upper West Side, as did the first Joyce Theater on Chelsea, even if upscale art galleries led the way. The revitalization of Times Square has deliberately included small and large theaters and rehearsal spaces, but the overall gentrification there was driven by overtly political forces.

Downtown, the Freedom Center was clearly a political choice, unrelated to culture except in the broadest anthropological or memorial sense. The other three winners, all worthy, might combine to create a cultural buzz downtown that will attract other institutions. Even, maybe, the rejected New York City Opera.

But will that buzz shift the balance of cultural activity downtown? That seems less likely. While it has already been equated with Lincoln Center and the South Bank Center in London, the World Trade Center development will not rival either of these on any criterion. Lincoln Center especially brought together the city's most powerful performing-arts companies. The downtown complex will be a medium-size operation, for medium-size groups.

In the ancient past Lower Manhattan was the heart of the city. With the center of gravity shifting uptown, it has been best known artistically in recent decades for smaller, scruffier alternative ventures.

What's been scarce in the panoply of New York cultural institutions has been a step up the ladder between small and grand. In this regard the 900-to-1,000-seat theater proposed for the Joyce is the most interesting structure in the complex. It will offer a home, for dance above all, between the roughly 500-seat theaters pegged to Off Broadway union scales and the huge barns of the City Center, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center complexes.

But this theater will arrive after several viable alternatives are already in place. It will be in competition with the BAM Harvey Theater and the new Rose Hall in the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex in the Time Warner Center. And insofar as the space is used for music, it will compete with Carnegie's new, hipper-than-thou Zankel Hall. Not to speak of Alice Tully Hall or Town Hall, underutilized and crying out for renovation.

Had the idea been to create a true alternative to the midtown and uptown cultural bastions of New York today, some thought might have been paid to creating opportunities for things unique, bizarre, unprecedented, even vulgar. Innovative, populist festivals, circuses, multimedia events, mega-concerts, the possibilities are open and endless. Right now, even with these two new cultural buildings, there is no obvious site for anything on a truly improbable scale. Yet in New York, with buildings and personal wealth and even culture (witness the Metropolitan Opera and Museum and the sheer agglomeration of all the institutions we already have), size matters.

For such a vision one would need a visionary impresario, someone comparable to Joseph Papp at the Public Theater or Mr. Lichtenstein at the Brooklyn Academy or Gerard Mortier in Salzburg and, now, Paris. Leaders like that usually have ideals that enlist art in a sometimes quixotic attempt to transform society, not the other way around.

No one has yet mentioned the idea of an overall director for the entire downtown complex, and such a position might create needless tensions with the four institutions just selected. Visionaries often arise unexpectedly from within extant institutions, slowly and steadily transforming them into something once unimaginable. But newly minted or organically grown, unless someone rises to the forefront, it seems unlikely that the new downtown cultural complex, for all the worthiness of its eventual artistic offerings, will make much of an impact beyond itself.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 15th, 2004, 11:37 AM

Culture by Committee

The arts at Ground Zero are being entrusted to second string organizations.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004 12:01 a.m.

The suspense is over. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center site, announced last Thursday the four cultural organizations it has selected as linchpins for the arts at Ground Zero. The envelope, please:

• The Joyce Theater, which wants to build a 1,000-seat theater for modern-dance companies. The new house will augment the Joyce's performance spaces in Chelsea (472 seats) and SoHo (74 seats).

• The Signature Theatre Company, which wants to build a complex of three small theaters (499, 299 and 199 seats, respectively) to replace its Off-Broadway house in the theater district.

• The Drawing Center, which presents exhibitions of drawings and wants to move from its quarters in SoHo.

• The Freedom Center, an as-yet-nonexistent enterprise that will present "exhibitions centered on humankind's enduring quest for freedom."

Do I hear any applause? Hello? Is anybody there?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that all four organizations are unworthy--only the one that doesn't exist. The Freedom Center is one of those self-evidently silly ideas that only an underemployed committee could have conceived, a portentous-sounding Museum of Nothing in Particular destined to present blandly institutional, scrupulously noncontroversial exhibitions. No doubt the center will draw plenty of squirming grade-school kids sentenced to compulsory field trips, but I'd bet next month's rent that tourists will steer clear.

The three other groups to be offered space are serious and respectable, but they simply don't add up to anything remotely approaching a world-class center for the arts. "The vibrant mixture of dance, theatre and fine arts in one cultural complex will serve as a powerful cultural and economic engine for Lower Manhattan," Gov. George Pataki proclaimed last week. Who's he kidding? Like the Freedom Center, this particular choice of institutions stinks of committeethink. It's modest and safe--the inverse of the magnificent cultural opportunity afforded by the coming reconstruction of Ground Zero.

One of the other arts organizations that had hoped to move to the World Trade Center site was the New York City Opera, an indisputably major company whose current headquarters, Lincoln Center's New York State Theater, is notoriously ill-suited to operatic performances (it was designed for the New York City Ballet and has poor acoustics). A year ago, I wrote an article in this space enthusiastically endorsing City Opera's proposal to build a 2,200-seat opera house and two smaller theaters at Ground Zero.

"The opportunity of being part of an entirely new neighborhood--a completely recreated part of New York City--is very exciting," Paul Kellogg, City Opera's general and artistic director, told me at the time. "I think there is something almost spiritual involved in this location, and I feel that one of the things that would truly make it spiritual is to have a wonderful musical institution there." That was precisely the kind of big thinking called for in the paralyzing wake of 9/11. A performing-arts complex centered on a great opera house with its own artistically vital resident company might well have transformed downtown New York.

So why did City Opera get the brush-off? It seems that a majority of the LMDC's members, swayed by a neighborhood poll, concluded that a great opera house would be too powerful--and too highbrow--to fit into their plans for the World Trade Center site. Instead, they opted for institutions whose collective impact may be minor to the point of invisibility.

Like the rest of its erratic efforts to date, the LMDC's latest proposal will likely be altered beyond recognition long before any buildings get built. Even so, it is now improbable that City Opera will find a home on what Gov. Pataki rightly calls "sacred ground." Too bad the LMDC didn't think Ground Zero sacred enough to give the go-ahead to a thoughtfully conceived project worthy of the site's never-to-be-forgotten significance.

"By building a New York City Opera House on the ashes of the World Trade Center," I wrote, "New Yorkers would be making the boldest possible declaration of faith in the power and glory of Western culture. A year and a half ago, 3,000 innocent men,women and children were murdered by sworn enemies of that culture. I can't imagine a more inspiring way to honor their memory." Instead, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. chose to think small--very, very small.

What a disappointment. What a wasted opportunity.

Mr. Teachout is The Wall Street Journal's drama critic.


June 15th, 2004, 12:12 PM
So essentially, Mayor Mike has decided to keep Downtown's culture second rate in order to benefit Lincoln Center. That is typical of his thinking on Downtown redevelopment. It is also interesting that two of the three cultural organizations that were picked already have facilities in SoHo, meaning the net benefit to Downtown will be limited.

June 15th, 2004, 12:30 PM
Several people involved in the process said that Lincoln Center officials did not personally lobby against City Opera at the mayor's office or the development corporation. But Mr. Bloomberg was familiar enough with the issues; he contributed $15 million toward Lincoln Center's redevelopment plan before becoming mayor, an anonymous gift at the time. He also used to serve on the center's board and remains close to Beverly Sills, the former chairwoman of Lincoln Center who now is chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera. Through a spokesman, Mr. Bloomberg declined to comment.

I guess is personal motivated. I am sure.

But in any case I know that the opera will find a good home in the city. As long as they don't live the city of course. I love them in the Lincoln Center but if you dont want to be there then you shouldn't be there.

June 23rd, 2004, 09:01 PM
June 24, 2004

Freedom Center Is Still a Somewhat Vague Notion


Tom A. Bernstein says the Freedom Center will avoid sentimentality and propaganda.

The people behind the Freedom Center, one of the cultural institutions chosen this month to occupy ground zero, have spent much of their time so far insisting on what the nascent museum is not.

It is not an arm of the Bush administration, despite the longtime friendship of its creator, the developer Tom A. Bernstein, with President Bush. It will not be a palace of pro-American propaganda, Mr. Bernstein says, or a place for sentimentally commemorating victims of the Sept. 11 terrorists.

What is less clear is what the institution will be.

"We're a work-in-progress," Mr. Bernstein said in a recent interview at his office at Chelsea Piers, the sports and entertainment center he built with his partner and fellow presidential friend, Roland W. Betts. (Both men were partners with Mr. Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball team.) "We have a very strong concept, we have a very strong team and we have a lot of work to do."

The center's organizing principle will be "looking at different parts of the world transitioning from tyranny to freedom," Mr. Bernstein said, citing South Africa and the former Soviet Union.

It will also focus on people who have played important roles in that process. One potential exhibit, for example, might be "Freedom Beyond Bars," in which visitors would walk through prison cells representing those that housed Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Natan Sharansky.

The Freedom Center is "the one institution that was born of the events of Sept. 11 and links them into a broader theme," said Kevin Rampe, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which selected it and three other institutions for the World Trade Center site.

Paula Grant Berry, who lost her husband, David, in the towers and is on the development corporation's Families Advisory Council, said the center suited the site and dovetailed with the memorial, which she helped select. "I see the memorial as the heart and the Freedom Center as the mind," she said.

The corporation has given the groups six months, starting July 8, to come up with programming, a business plan and a schematic design for their buildings.

During that period, Mr. Bernstein said, he will "put together teams of historians, curators and storytellers to develop narratives" for the center, which is expected to open in 2009. It is modeled, he said, on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which feature videos, archival photographs and artifacts. It will also draw on the success of experiential exhibits like those at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where visitors walk through the rooms of a former tenement building.

In the last two and a half years Mr. Bernstein has recruited some 40 scholars and others for the center's planning and advisory committees. These include Bob Kerrey, president of New School University in Manhattan and the former governor and senator from Nebraska; Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of the African and African-American studies department at Harvard; Walter Isaacson, chief executive of the Aspen Institute and author of a recent biography of Benjamin Franklin; and Theodore C. Sorensen, who worked in the Kennedy administration.

"The danger is that it gets captured by partisan politics," said Thomas S. Johnson, who lost his son in the terrorist attack and is on the development corporation board. "If it is to be a quality institution, it can't be jingoistic and just patriotic."

Mr. Bernstein points to the range of people on the board as evidence that the center will be nonpartisan. He often mentions in particular Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and John Raisian, the director and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution.

"Democrats and Republicans will come and go," Mr. Bernstein said. "This institution will stand."

While the advisory committee has not met face-to-face, the planning committee has gathered to discuss what the Freedom Center might include.

Planning for the center is also being overseen by Peter W. Kunhardt, a documentary filmmaker who was a co-producer of the eight-hour PBS series "Freedom: A History of US," the PBS series "The American President" and the ABC series "Lincoln."

Initially the center planned to have four floors, each with its own focus: the terrorist attacks, New York City, the nation and the world. It has moved away from that configuration without yet settling on an alternative.

The New-York Historical Society applied for a place at ground zero that would focus on the city, but Kenneth T. Jackson, who this month stepped down as president, ended up on the Freedom Center's advisory board instead. "There was part of me that really wanted the New-York Historical Society to do it," Mr. Jackson said. "But to be honest, I just want it done."

The Freedom Center is expected to cost about $250 million to build and $25 million a year to operate, Mr. Bernstein said. He hopes to raise the operating money largely from membership dues and a nominal admission fee. Five to 10 million people are expected to visit the site each year.

Ruth J. Abram, the director of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, who is on the planning committee, said the center should start by having "conversations all over the world" about what belongs in a freedom center.

Alex Boraine, the founder and president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, who is on the center's committee of scholars and advisers, said he had stressed to Mr. Bernstein the importance of making the center about more than America. "Freedom is essentially a universal quest," said Mr. Boraine, who was deputy chairman of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. "It really ought to be representative of the struggle of mankind rather than of one particular nation."

Others involved in the planning said it was important that the center not whitewash the struggles on the road to freedom. "There will be a focus on the creation of America and the writing of the constitution and the founding of the first great Western democracy," said Fareed Zakaria, a Newsweek columnist who is an adviser to the center. "But there will also be a focus on the peculiar way liberty was defined to exclude blacks and to exclude women.

"It will be more thought-provoking and produce a greater sense of reflection, rather than something that creates a sense of veneration," he added.

The center, which starts out without any collections or holdings, plans to develop exhibitions, lectures, film series and educational programming in partnership with institutions like the Aspen Institute, New York University, WNYC Radio and New Visions for Public Schools, which aims to improve New York City's public schools.

It will also borrow exhibits from organizations like the International Center for Transitional Justice and the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience, whose members include the Gulag Museum at Perm 36 in Russia and the District Six Museum in South Africa.

Mr. Bernstein said he had "grown up in the world of human rights" as the son of Robert L. Bernstein, the founding chairman of Human Rights Watch. He is the board president of Human Rights First, formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and is on the executive committee of the Holocaust Museum.

His advisers, meanwhile, say they are keenly aware of the need to guard against allowing the center's program to veer into cheerleading for America.

"It could so easily be taken over and made into this flag-waving, rah-rah thing," Mr. Boraine said. "We have to make sure the politicians don't take over and use it for their own ends."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 23rd, 2004, 11:45 PM
Tom A. Bernstein says the Freedom Center will avoid sentimentality and propaganda.

Suggestion- CHANGE THE F'N NAME!

June 24th, 2004, 11:32 AM
"It could so easily be taken over and made into this flag-waving, rah-rah thing," Mr. Boraine said. "We have to make sure the politicians don't take over and use it for their own ends."

I'm encouraged by who has been selected to participate on the board, and it is good to hear these things said about steering clear of flag-waving. The museum sounds like it could be quite interesting.

But it doesn't belong at the WTC site, because inevitably the silly "they attacked us because they hate our freedom" argument will drag the museum back to simplistic America-is-great sentiments. I say build the museum on Liberty Island. Keep WTC safe from the GOP's self-serving 9/11 jingoism.

June 24th, 2004, 02:29 PM
I say build the museum on Liberty Island. Keep WTC safe from the GOP's self-serving 9/11 jingoism.

I agree. I don't understand how an organization with no clear mission and no clear direction gets selected.

July 5th, 2004, 11:28 PM
July 6, 2004


Hooked on Fishing and a Freedom Center


"The power of a compelling idea will propel you past all the hurdles if people believe it's the right idea."
Tom A. Bernstein

PRESS the red button beneath the midriff of Big Mouth Billy Bass, prominent among the school of piscatorial novelty items enlivening Tom A. Bernstein's dockside office at Chelsea Piers - the real estate novelty item he created with his partner, Roland Betts - and the fish bursts into song.

The tune, for the edification of trivia nuts and/or fishing fanatics like Mr. Bernstein, who on clear days scans the Hudson reflexively, and in vain, for signs of bass, is "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Corny? So what. Mr. Bernstein has faith in what he calls his "neurotic" obsessions, be they civic-minded, like the Freedom Center he is planning at ground zero, or self-gratifying, like Big Mouth Billy.

"My family all think I'm kind of sick," he says of his fishing fixation, which commenced with landing a trout at age 10 in Jackson Hole, Wyo. His dad, Robert L. Bernstein, the former chairman of Random House and founder of the Helsinki Watch Committee, neither shared nor discouraged fish mania. But he was an advocate of catch-and-release, and passed his penchant for human rights activism to his son, now board president of Human Rights First.

That first trout was thrown back, but Mr. Bernstein, now a boyish 51, was hooked. And once he latches onto something, be it a combative fish, a maligned development scheme for four neglected city piers, or a controversial proposal for a world-class museum devoted to world freedom at ground zero, he doesn't let go. He's tenacious behind that generic post-preppy veneer: checked shirt, chinos, penny loafers and lightly tinted wire-rim specs. He was one of the first American lawyers to take on an asylum case - Heherson Alvarez vs. the Marcos regime in 1980 - and, allied with his father, he pressed China for the release in 2002 of the civil liberties advocate Xu Wenli. "The power of a compelling idea will propel you past all the hurdles if people believe it's the right idea," he asserts.

Although the dιcor here is plenty fishy, Mr. Bernstein, a Yale-educated lawyer with an expertise in political asylum litigation and a two-decade friendship with President Bush (they owned the Texas Rangers baseball club with Mr. Betts and others), takes pains to make it clear that he and his business ventures are nothing of the sort. Fishy, that is.

Press the red record button on the business end of the tape recorder, and Mr. Bernstein - whose faded freckles, crooked teeth and silver-tipped carrot top channel a latter-day Howdy Doody grown into a multimillionaire mogul with homes in Riverdale, East Hampton and France thanks to an ingenious financing scheme he and Mr. Betts concocted for 75 Disney-produced films - bursts into a verbal aria about his latest project, the Freedom Center.

Why does downtown, and the world, need it? It's a no-brainer!

"Many people more learned than me have said that freedom is the most powerful force on the planet," he says. "From where I sit, freedom matters, because if you don't have free and open societies where people move freely and disseminate ideas, well, we'll all destroy each other. This, to me, is the great debate: are we going to have free and open societies or are we going to have 9/11, a lawless world, tyranny dressed up in another disguise?"

He intends to devote the next 5 or 10 years to the museum, gratis. Corporate backers like American Express and I.B.M. and a nonpartisan-sounding board of academics are on board, too.

In mid-June, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation selected the Freedom Center and three arts groups to be the cultural anchors at ground zero.

The center's mission has been disparaged as vague by skeptics and been called a threat to other downtown historic sites and museums by Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, who complained that its $250 million construction costs and $25 million in annual operating costs could be put to better use. But Mr. Bernstein is undeterred. He denies that the museum got the nod from the L.M.D.C. (Mr. Betts is a board member) because of his relationship with Mr. Bush, who calls him Bernie and appointed him a council member of Washington's Holocaust Museum, an institution Mr. Bernstein and the documentary filmmaker Peter W. Kunhardt used as a template in planning the museum.

"This is not for Democrats or Republicans, not for the right or the center or the left," says Mr. Bernstein, a onetime delegate for George McGovern. "Both main parties, at their worst, can be pretty dreadful."

MR. BERNSTEIN admits he mentioned his Freedom Center plan two years ago to President Bush, and calls their friendship "an accident of history."

"You're not cut much slack in this town for being friends with the president, but personally, he's irresistible." Irresistible? "Irresistible because of his human qualities, and anybody who really knows him, be they Democrat, Republican or Martian, knows that's the case."

Case closed. After all, it's a free country. Especially for a Yalie who grows up in Scarsdale; clerks for a legal legend like Jack B. Weinstein; pulls the right legal strings for victims of political persecution; produces a film of conscience, "Sakharov," for HBO; finances winners like "The Little Mermaid" and "Pretty Woman" for Disney; marries an executive at Oxygen Media; and spends his July Fourths in the Hamptons with Senator Charles E. Schumer. Too, he's convinced his three children that fishing is bliss. His reward from them? Billy Bass.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company