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PR- 017-06
January 11, 2006


Sale of Buildings Creates Partnership Between Existing Tenants and Cultural Arts Organizations to Rehab and Refurbish Building Sites; Development includes three Hispanic Theaters

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today presented the keys to six buildings formerly owned by the City to 10 cultural organizations that comprise part of the Fourth Arts Block, an association of 13 nonprofit cultural and community service organizations located on East Fourth Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue in Manhattan. Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Shaun Donovan and former City Council Member Margarita Lopez were on hand for the presentation which took place at the La MaMa Experimental Theater Club. Ellen Stewart, Founder and Director of the La MaMa Experimental Theater, accepted the keys on behalf of all 13 organizations.

"Supporting the arts community in New York City takes many forms and helping provide them with space to perform and create is one of the ways we can help the arts grow," said Mayor Bloomberg. "This unique partnership will provide actors, dancers and other artists the ability to continue their groundbreaking work while simultaneously rehabilitating buildings in this neighborhood. I thank Margarita Lopez and Commissioners Levin and Donovan for their hard work in achieving this goal and to the new owners, welcome home."

In September 2004, the Mayor and City Council approved the sale of these buildings with the agreement that the buildings would have specific cultural and community uses and be owned by not-for-profits in perpetuity. Each building was sold for $1 and these organizations agreed to provide funding to conduct renovations and provide regular building maintenance. The new building tenants include theater groups and dance companies whose presence will contribute to the thriving arts community in the East Village. Also among the new tenants are three Hispanic theater companies which will play host to the Latino International Theater Festival - a project originating from members of the Mayor's Latin Media and Entertainment Commission. The festival is scheduled to debut in 2007.

"The East Village has been home to cutting-edge theater and performing arts groups for more than 40 years," said Commissioner Levin. "The administration recognizes both the contributions these innovative arts organizations have made to the city as forerunners of a thriving cultural district, and the importance of access to affordable space in which artists create and present their work."

The East Fourth Street sites represent one of the final elements of the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area. In November 2004 Mayor Bloomberg "topped off" Avalon Chrystie Place, part of the Urban Renewal Area and the first of a four-building development along East Houston Street, totaling 712 rental apartments, of which 30% will be affordable housing for low-income families.

"The East 4th Street Cultural District serves as an engine for new artistic endeavors and for local community development," said HPD Commissioner Shaun Donovan. "This transaction highlights the importance of affordability: both in terms of the affordable housing the City is creating as part of the Mayor's New Housing Marketplace plan and access to affordable space to create and present art. HPD is thrilled to have played a part in expanding the artistic life of the neighborhood and the city, and the further regeneration of the East Village."

"We are delighted to be able to stand with our colleagues as owners in this wonderful community we have called home for so many years," said Ellen Stewart, Founder and Director of La MaMa. "Owning our space will allow us to continue doing what we have been for over 40 years: developing, nurturing, supporting, producing and presenting new and original performance work by artists of all nations and cultures. The performing arts in this city are as vibrant as ever, and we are proud to be recognized as essential to this thriving community."

The Mayor's Office, the City Council and the Manhattan Borough President's Office have also invested a total $3.05 million to assist with renovations of the six buildings. In the coming year, the City has also pledged an additional $1.05 million. This funding will support the addition of three new theaters, one new set and costume design workshop, new rehearsal studios, office space and vital infrastructure improvements.

Fourth Arts Block will provide additional funding for renovations and to date has raised more than $1.7 million in private donations. Renovations are scheduled to begin later this year.

The 13 member organizations of Fourth Arts Block are:

• Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company
• Choices Theater Project
• Cooper Square Committee
• Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association
• Downtown Art
• Duo Theater
• IATI (Instituto Arte Teatral Internacional)
• La MaMa Experimental Theater Club
• Millennium Film Workshop
• New York Theatre Workshop
• Rod Rodgers Dance Company
• Teatro Circulo
• WOW Cafe Theatre


Edward Skyler/Virginia Lam   (212) 788-2958

Sara Rutkowski   (Department of Cultural Affairs )
(212) 643-6690

Neill Coleman   (Housing Preservation and Development)

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