It's a shame that permanent, high-quality, larger capacity, cultural institutions can't be built down town. It is the one thing that really separates Midtown from Downtown. The belief that a vibrant 24/7 "destination" neighborhood can come into being without a "there" there is short-sighted. A good cultural center along the lines of Lincoln Center or BAM would encourage the non-resident, finance folks reaping those ridiculous bonuses to stick around longer after work and pour some money back into these institutions that, in turn, feed small businesses and restaurant/retail.
Ground Zero Arts Center Loses Theater Company
By ROBIN POGREBIN
Published: March 28, 2007
In a new twist to the juggling act at ground zero, the city said yesterday that the Signature Theater Company would not be included in a performing arts center to be designed there by Frank Gehry, leaving the Joyce Theater, which presents dance, as the building’s sole resident.
Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff said the Signature, an Off Broadway group, was dropped because of the cost and complicated logistics of having the two institutions share a confined space.
Instead the city hopes to move the Signature to Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway, cater-corner to 7 World Trade Center. Fiterman, part of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, was heavily damaged by falling debris on 9/11.
Estimates of the performing arts center’s cost were approaching $700 million, city officials said. Under the new plan, the center and a new Signature Theater are expected to come in at about $350 million combined.
“The city said it was going to be too costly to do it, and I think they’re right,” said James Houghton, artistic director of the Signature. “Frankly, it’s refreshing to get this straight talk about it. I don’t think anyone wants to build a $700 million performing arts center.”
Mr. Doctoroff said the decision would “result in substantial savings and hopefully improved facilities for both institutions.”
Yet the decision highlights the striking way the original cultural ambitions for ground zero have been scaled back. In June 2004, state and city officials selected four arts groups for a coveted place at the site with great fanfare, predicting that ground zero would become a cultural mecca. Only the Joyce remains now.
The City University of New York, which oversees the Fiterman Hall site, had been working on a renovation with architects at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners before the Signature became involved. Mr. Houghton said that while he still hoped to collaborate with Mr. Gehry on the interior, he was not disappointed that ground zero was off the table.
“We have the potential to reach all of the goals we were after downtown and do it in a more realistic way,” he said.
Mr. Gehry said he would be happy to stay with the project. “I’m used to rolling with the punches,” he said. “I will try to rise to the occasion.”
In a separate development, the Drawing Center in SoHo, which was pushed out of the ground zero plan in 2005 amid controversy over its programming, is now likely to move to the South Street Seaport, city officials said. Last year the Drawing Center seemed poised to relocate to a site occupied by part of the old Fulton Fish Market. But Kate D. Levin, the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs, said that proved too expensive because the site, on Pier 18 on South Street, needed significant repairs and must conform with codes involving maritime use.
Instead the Drawing Center is hoping to move to Burling Slip, at John Street, between Front and South Streets, a location under lease to the South Street Seaport Museum. “They will be in a major site of development,” Ms. Levin said, noting the city’s recent efforts to revitalize the East Side waterfront. “There are very few visual arts venues south of Canal.”
George Negroponte, the Drawing Center’s president, said he was excited about the Burling Slip location but emphasized that no deal had been completed. “This is a fantastic site,” he said. “A critical mass is finally being established, and it looks terrific for downtown.”
The Drawing Center was supposed to share a building at ground zero with a proposed International Freedom Center, but the Freedom Center was scuttled after family members of 9/11 victims questioned whether its themes would be sufficiently patriotic. Now that museum building, designed by the Norwegian firm Snohetta, has been redesignated as the site of a memorial museum and a visitors’ center.
Although the Joyce will have the performing arts center to itself, the building may occasionally be used for nondance events like the Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place each spring. “I’m delighted that we’re moving forward,” said Linda Shelton, executive director of the Joyce. “The project has been stalled for quite some time. It now feels like we have a genuine partner in the city.”
After the downtown rebuilding effort was repeatedly stymied, the city took over from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation last fall. “What we did for months was a detailed review of the engineering, cost and programmatic issues to make sure what was proposed was really not workable,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “It just wasn’t going to happen.”
The city explored the Fiterman Hall location before broaching the idea to the Signature, Mr. Houghton said. It also considered moving the Signature into other buildings on the Trade Center site but found that their elevator cores were unsuitable. For now the Signature is also considering two other CUNY sites downtown, although Mr. Houghton said he preferred Fiterman Hall for its proximity to the performing arts center and the transportation hub.
Over the last three years, the Signature and the Joyce have been trying to figure out how to share the challenging Trade Center site between Vesey and Fulton Streets, next to the Freedom Tower. “There are five stories below grade — two trains, a mall and a parking lot all underneath there, many stakeholders,” Mr. Houghton noted. “It’s probably the most complicated site for a performing arts center in the world.”
The Joyce wanted a 900- to 1,000-seat theater, while maintaining its current sites in Chelsea and SoHo. The Signature, a showcase for American playwrights on West 42nd Street, planned a three-theater complex. Because of the performing arts center’s limited footprint, the theaters would have to be stacked, making it difficult for the audiences to proceed up and down.
Still unclear is how much the city might contribute for the cultural buildings and what amount the arts groups will be responsible for.
Ms. Levin predicted that with 1,000 seats, the new Joyce would fill a niche in the city. Existing theaters have 499 and 599 seats, then jump to about 2,000 in size, she said, and some prominent dance companies bypass New York as a result. The Joyce is also considering a casual cafe that could be used for daytime performances and small concerts.
But the coast is by no means clear. According to the current timetable, construction cannot start on the Joyce site until 2011 because it will be occupied until then by a temporary exit from the PATH train. “It’s frustrating, because of course you lose momentum,” Ms. Shelton said. “But I’m hoping it can move forward more quickly than that.”
The Signature has more urgent constraints, since the lease at its 42nd Street location expires in 2011. “The clock is ticking for us,” Mr. Houghton said.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Well, this decision ^^^ should leave more open space -- or at least more light / air -- at that end of the site
^Ditto for Doctoroff, Spitzer, Burden, and any other planning czars.
Listening to todays press conference about 99 Church it was mentioned by Silverstein at the end that Gerhy is still on track to designing this performing arts space. He sounded very confident that it would get built along with the rest of the site.
Will Gehry show us his rendering for the WTC PAC before or after he reveals his design for the Ratner / Beekman tower
Riding the Subway With Frank
The Fulton Street Transit Center, which was going to be a glorious subway hub just east of the World Trade Center before the MTA went broke and scaled down the design, may still get a hot dose of starchitecture.
The Observer reports that a proposal making the rounds suggests that Frank Gehry's planned Performing Arts Center for the World Trade Center be moved to the top of the MTA station. A new WTC tower/development would take the currently proposed site of the center, just east of the Freedom Tower. Needless to say, there's skepticism!
WTC arts center remains right move
When New Yorkers started to think about what should replace the World Trade Center after the horrific attacks, there was almost universal support for a memorial to honor the 3,000 lives lost. Probably the second most popular idea voiced by the thousands who spoke during the public process was for a cultural center. Then-Governor George Pataki often paid lip service to this idea, as did Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They all thought, correctly, that part of the response to incomprehensible evil should be beauty and art.
Seven years later, the idea remains an afterthought with not much prospect of being even partially realized.
Under Bloomberg’s leadership of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a private foundation, the memorial and museum reached its $350 million fundraising goal last week. The foundation was also going to raise money for the cultural center, but it never had much interest in doing that.
When Dan Doctoroff, who was Bloomberg’s top Lower Manhattan adviser, spoke of the city taking the lead on WTC arts planning—two years ago—the foundation was eager to step aside.
Little has happened since then. The only consistent “progress” on the idea over the years has been to make it smaller and put it aside for other projects.
The cultural “center” has been reduced to a possibility of one arts group, Joyce Theater, in one theoretical building, where construction has the potential to begin in a few years if anyone ever decides to begin raising money. Signature Theater was thrown off the WTC site last year for cost reasons. Other groups were previously bounced because of Pataki’s decree that no Ground Zero artwork could ever offend anyone.
The Port Authority is now using the supposed WTC Performing Arts Center site to continue building a much-needed train center. The station should be a higher priority than the PAC, but the decision to put off one for the other will drive up the costs and, with the continuing competition for WTC space, could reduce the size of the arts center further—if it ever gets built. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s recent trial balloon of moving the PAC to the shaky Fulton Transit Center project only underscores how much uncertainty there is with both projects.
One of the excuses given to delay the arts center fundraising was it would compete with memorial fundraising. That flimsy excuse—there were and are plenty of art donors who were unlikely to ever give to the memorial—thankfully became obsolete with last week’s welcome announcement about the memorial’s accomplishment.
Now the excuse we hear is that it is not feasible to start a fundraising campaign because there is no definite site, design, cost estimate or arts group yet. That’s all true, but it only goes to show how nothing really has been accomplished on the WTC arts center. If a philanthropist stepped forward now and promised a check for $50 million in exchange for a binding commitment to build a large arts building at the WTC, would anyone in power be willing to deposit it if it meant paying penalties for another broken promise?
The wisdom of a WTC arts center hasn’t changed. Only the will to build it has.
Copyright 2008 Chelsea Now.
Plans for arts center at ground zero move slowly
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: May 19, 2008
Filed at 9:20 a.m. ET
NEW YORK (AP) -- When he created ground zero's master plan, architect Daniel Libeskind added a performing arts center to bring life to a site devastated by terrorism.
More than 100 arts institutions applied for a spot on the 16 acres. Four were chosen.
That was four years ago. Since then, three out of the four groups that were to have anchored the new performance space have moved on, and the center's prospects appear to be fading.
Fundraising for the center, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, hasn't begun. Ongoing construction of other buildings at the site -- including an office tower, a transit hub and a Sept. 11 memorial -- have complicated building prospects. State and city officials are now considering moving the center off the site, on top of a nearby subway station.
Libeskind called the arts center disarray ''a great pity.''
''It should be exactly where it was planned to be,'' he said. ''It's critical for the diversity, and for the symbolism of this site.''
The arts were front and center in 2004, when officials announced that the rebuilt trade center would become the new home of two independent theater companies, the country's only museum solely devoted to drawing and a new museum celebrating freedom.
Architect Frank Gehry was hired to build the theater, a 1,000-seat facility for the Joyce Theater dancers and smaller spaces for the Signature Theatre Co.
One by one, plans changed for all of them.
In the summer of 2005, the Drawing Center opted to find space elsewhere after survivors of people killed on Sept. 11 and other advocates criticized some of the works on exhibit as inappropriate.
Then the International Freedom Center was taken off the site by then-Gov. George Pataki following a campaign by the families of some victims who feared its programming would offer unwelcome, political interpretations of the 2001 terrorist attack.
Last year, the Signature Theatre Co. dropped its plan to move to the site after city and state officials said it would cost too much to build separate theaters for both them and the Joyce.
''We're the last one standing,'' said Linda Shelton, executive director of the Joyce Theater.
Shelton said she had hoped the theater, a much-needed 1,000-seat space in a city where most venues are either much smaller, or many times larger, would be nearly built by now.
Development officials have defended the delays, saying their first priority was to rebuild destroyed office towers and create a memorial. But as the years have dragged by, state and city officials have wrestled to find ways to cut soaring costs and build.
The land for the arts center won't be available until at least 2011; it is now occupied by a temporary entrance to a transit hub. The cost estimates for building the center on an incredibly complicated site, dominated by the $2 billion hub and a 1,776-foot skyscraper, seem to rise by the month.
Last month LMDC chairman Avi Schick suggested a solution: Take the arts center off site and build it on top of a subway hub at Fulton Street, another project that is already over budget with uncertain funding.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is still considering options for the Fulton Street transit hub and doesn't have an opinion on the arts center, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.
Maggie Boepple, president of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, said the council doesn't want to give up on the idea of building at the trade center, but might not oppose moving the center off the site if it is a viable possibility.
Other civic and arts leaders say that ground zero, one of the most emotional, politically fraught development projects ever, has already proven to be a difficult place for groups hoping to exercise artistic independence.
Brett Littman, executive director of the Drawing Center, said the museum didn't opt out of the site because it was concerned about censorship, but it did worry about being pressured to make changes.
''We couldn't change our mission, even in the concept of respect,'' he said. ''Maybe it just wasn't a good fit for us. It probably wasn't a good fit for any visual arts organization.''
Libeskind said politics has delayed nearly every project under way at the site, but expressed hope that the cultural aspects of his master plan will still survive.
''It should be something, of course, that should be realized, that doesn't cost an arm and a leg,'' Libeskind said. ''There is no reason to delay it.''
this project has as much chance of happening as Fulton Street.
The way things are going it's more likely that a huge trading floor will be built on site rather than a Performing Arts Center .