For Immediate Release: December 11, 2019
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NOEL POINTER FOUNDATION RECEIVES $6.5 MILLION TO TRANSFORM LONG-VACANT DEGRAW FIREHOUSE INTO A MUSIC EDUCATION CENTER
The City will work with the music education nonprofit to renovate the 4,300 square foot historic firehouse into its new home for offices and programming
Brooklyn, NY – The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), members of the City Council, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams have announced that The Noel Pointer Foundation (NPF) has received $6.5 million in City capital funding to restore the historic firehouse located at 299 Degraw Street in Cobble Hill. NPF will be the non-profit cultural operator of the site pending completion of the renovation project. Formerly home to Fire Department Engine Company 204, the two-story, 18th century firehouse building was decommissioned in 2003. NPF plans to transform the long-vacant facility into a new center for music education and enrichment for New York City youth.
To download high res preliminary renderings of the planned music center, click here.
“The Department of Cultural Affairs has been a longtime supporter of the Noel Pointer Foundation’s extraordinary programs, which engage thousands of young New Yorkers with the power of music education and performance every year,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “Working alongside the local community board and our colleagues in City Council to make this match, we’re so excited to provide this terrific organization with space to grow their programming while activating this historic firehouse. Together, we will transform this vacant facility into a community-centered space that can expand access to cultural programming for residents in Brooklyn and beyond for generations to come.”
“The Noel Pointer Foundation does excellent work instilling a love of music in so many New York City students and providing job training for students and teachers alike,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. “The Council was proud to support this new space, which will be a game changer for the Cobble Hill community and for all of Brooklyn. I congratulate Council Member Levin on this exciting new addition to his district and I know I speak for all of us at the Council who fought to make this project a reality when I say that we can’t wait to see how this space looks once it’s up and running.”
“I’m thrilled to see the Noel Pointer Foundation’s expanding its footprint in Brooklyn, thanks in part to the $1 million investment made by our office. The restoration of the Degraw Street firehouse shows how we can repurpose historically significant buildings for modern community uses. All children deserve the opportunity to explore and indulge their creativity through artistic expression, and this new facility will allow students who may not otherwise have the chance to learn an art form that the late author Khalil Gibran once described as ‘the language of the spirit,’” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“As a music enthusiast, I understand the value of music education and programming and the impact it can have on a child’s life. Music has the ability to bridge cultural divides and bring people together,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I want to thank Commissioner Finkelpearl and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Mayor de Blasio, Borough President Eric Adams, and my colleagues in the City Council for investing in this new home for Noel Pointer Foundation and I look forward to working with the foundation to continue to provide New York City children with music enrichment programming for years to come.”
“I am thrilled that the Noel Pointer Foundation will receive $6.5 million in capital funds to restore the Degraw firehouse as its new home,” said Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo. “My family and I have a deeply rooted appreciation for this organization, and their tireless efforts to lift up the next generation through music and art. Through this funding, the foundation will create a new and vibrant community for their students and continue to serve youth throughout the city.”
“It is such a joy to collaborate with the Noel Pointer Foundation for District events; they fill the space with warmth and the beauty of music and art. The thought of Noel Pointer making a home in a long-vacant building, and filling it with creativity and life is artistic itself,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (D-36 Brooklyn). “This is a great investment on the part of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, City Council, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. I look forward to visiting once they are settled in, and commend Chinita Pointer for her commitment to the community and carrying forward the legacy of Noel Pointer.”
“I’m thrilled that the Degraw firehouse will be put to good use as a site for Brooklyn’s young people to learn and love music,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “The Noel Pointer Foundation’s musical education and enrichment programming will be a great addition to the neighborhood.”
“When we started the Noel Pointer Foundation, I dreamt that one day we would have a welcoming school where students who didn’t have the means to learn a string instrument could play, just as Noel did when he was a child,” said Noel Pointer Foundation CEO Chinita Pointer. “As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of Noel’s passing this December, we are so grateful to Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Finkelpearl, City Council Members Levin, Cumbo, Cornegy, Lander, Council Speaker Johnson, and the Black and Latino Caucus, and Borough President Adams for helping to realize our vision and ensure that Noel’s legacy lives on.”
"The Noel Pointer Foundation occupying 299 Degraw Street makes the site go from blight to a great cultural and community resource instantly," said Michael Racioppo, District Manager, Brooklyn Community Board 6.
Since 1995 NPF has reached 34,000 New York City public school students by providing string music training. This year, the organization has served 2,200 students via in-school programs in 36 public schools and on-campus programming at its headquarters in Bedford Stuyvesant. The renovated building would support NPF's expanded After-School, Saturday, and Summer Strings Programs which span string, piano, DJ, composition, music theory, and voice instruction; performance opportunities; and school placement assistance offered to approximately 200 NPF students seeking support qualifying to enter specialized high schools, conservatories, and colleges each year.
Located in Cobble Hill at the intersection of major bus and subway lines, the renovated firehouse would be the first permanent home for NPF, and it would raise the caliber of instruction provided to students with spaces tailored for professional music education. The building would create up to 4,300 square feet of flexible program space including sound-proofed classrooms accommodating multiple ensemble sizes, five private lesson rooms, a recording studio, climate-controlled instrument storage space, administrative offices, meeting areas, and ADA access. It would also increase NPF’s capacity to host professional development training for the organization’s 30 teaching artists. When not being used for music classes, the facility will be available to rent as a resource for meetings, events, workshops, small scale performances, and other activities that reflect the needs of the local community and musicians.
The $6.5 million in City funding for this project includes $3 million from Mayor de Blasio, $2.5 million from the City Council, and $1 million from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. NPF is launching a $3.5 million fundraising campaign to support future operations and programming, kicking off with a gala event at Weeksville Heritage Center on December 12, 2019. The Brooklyn Philharmonic was previously selected as a proposed operator of the site, but the organization has since ceased operations. NPF’s new music education center would revive the vision of cultural programming at the building. NPF has been working with Brooklyn-based Vamos Architects to design the project, which is anticipated to be completed three years after construction begins.
Since 2007, NPF has been operating as a resident arts organization of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) Youth Arts Academy, located at 241 Herkimer Street. NPF is chaired by Restoration Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer Tracey Capers. The organization will continue its residency until the building project is completed, and maintain its presence in Central Brooklyn through in-school programs, student performances, and local partnerships.
"It is amazing to see the continued growth of the Noel Pointer Foundation and to support the staff in realizing this exciting vision for a first class arts education center," said NPF Board Chair Tracey Capers. "I am thrilled to usher in this full circle return to where the foundation started, and to serve even more children and families."
About Noel Pointer Foundation
Founded in 1995 to honor the legacy of the late violinist and humanitarian Noel Pointer, the Noel Pointer Foundation is grounded in the belief that every child deserves access to the life-changing benefits of music education, regardless of zip code or skin color. NPF works to disrupt racial disparities within the field of classical music and expand the playing field for classically trained string musicians of color. Since 2000 the organization has been contracted by the NYC Department of Education to serve as an arts education partner for principals throughout the five boroughs. NPF alumnae have gone on to attend prestigious institutions such as The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Harvard University, Yale University, Berklee College of Music, and LaGuardia High School. The Noel Pointer Youth Orchestra is a professional training ensemble providing students with the unique opportunity to perform for audiences at major concert halls including Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, on national television, and before thousands of families and youth. For more information, visit www.noelpointer.org.
About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. Among the agency’s primary missions is to ensure adequate public funding for non-profit cultural organizations, both large and small, throughout the five boroughs. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/culture.