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May 9, 2017

Historic Billie Holiday Theatre Again Serving Bedford-Stuyvesant Following DDC Restoration and Expansion

Ian Michaels

Brooklyn, NY – Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) today joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Commissioner Thomas Finkelpearl of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), Executive Director Dr. Indira Etwaroo, and a group of award-winning performers to celebrate the re-opening of the historic Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn following a $4.1 million renovation and expansion.

DDC managed the project for DCLA, fully modernizing the theatre and making it ADA-compliant. All new seating has been installed, along with new lighting and stage rigging with advanced fire suppression systems. New state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment will optimize the theatre experience for audiences, connected to a brand new control room. Twelve seats have been added to theatre’s capacity and the stage has been extended by more than two feet to provide additional performance space.

A ribbon cutting for the theatre featured award-winning poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, Tony Award winner Roger Robinson, MacArthur Fellow Jason Moran and renowned mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall-Moran, Shanice Williams from NBC’s “The Wiz Live” and master of ceremony Terrance McNight from WQXR FM.

DDC team performs ribbon cutting
The DDC project team at the ribbon cutting for the restored and expanded Billie Holiday Theatre in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora (center) shares scissors with Senior Project Design Manager Cheri Hawkins (blue suit), who attended performances at the Theatre as a child growing up in the neighborhood.

“Our aim was to deliver to the community a performance space it can take pride in for generations to come, and which lived up to the legacy of the theatre’s 45 years in the community,” said Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “We’re very pleased to work with the improved accessibility, visibility, and acoustics, as well as the increased seating capacity, and upgrades to the audio, visual, fire protection, and environmental systems. ‘The Billie’ has been polished and returned to Bedford-Stuyvesant.”

“Restoration Plaza is at the heart of what makes Bed-Stuy such a vibrant community, and we’re thrilled that its crown jewel – the historic Billie Holiday Theater – is re-opening its doors for eager audiences,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “The City is a proud supporter of the theater’s renovation and of the extraordinary programming that has made Restoration a community pillar over the last 50 years.”  

“Our renovated Billie Holiday Theatre is once again befitting of the name and legacy of Lady Day,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “This world-renowned creative venue is so important to Brooklyn’s rich performing arts community, and we are so excited to see this Bed-Stuy jewel polished and gleaming as brightly as the stars who will grace this its historic stage.”

"With the investment of $4.1 million dollars to upgrade the Billie Holiday Theatre, we continue to showcase one of Brooklyn’s cultural icons,” said Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy. “I commend Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora and his team from the NYC Department of Design and Construction for helping the city to renovate this marvelous historic space. The theatre will continue to serve as an artistic haven for generations to come.  Every New Yorker is invited to come and enjoy the new fall programming and witness this arts revolution taking place in the vibrant community of Bedford-Stuyvesant.”

“A lot has changed since Restoration launched The Billie Holiday Theatre in 1972 in the heat of the civil rights movement and severe urban disinvestment and, yet, so much has remained the same for many of our community members, as we continue to grapple with issues of inequality.” stated Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Executive Director, the Billie Holiday Theatre and RestorationArt. “For 45 years, The Billie Holiday Theatre stood at the crossroads of art, social justice and community development and we stand committed to presenting to our community their own stories on the stage, told in their own voices and featuring issues that have all too often been overlooked."

The reconstruction of the theatre extended backstage and to the theatre’s basement, adding a green room and new dressing rooms. Extensive improvements made to the theatre’s infrastructure includes new boilers and several new air conditioning units that work with the building’s existing geothermal system to use the earth’s natural cooling powers to reduce energy consumption by 25 percent and make the theatre more environmentally sustainable. A new connection was installed to the City water main in the street for the advanced standalone fire suppression system.

The Billie Holiday Theatre under construction in February 2017 (NYCDDC)
The Billie Holiday Theatre under construction in February 2017 (NYCDDC)

Founded in 1972 by the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the Billie Holiday Theatre at 1368 Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant hosts performances as well as local events. Eponymously named for the famous American jazz singer, its stage has featured prominent African American and Caribbean actors and entertainers including Smokey Robinson and Samuel L. Jackson.

Borough President Adams allocated $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 capital funding towards the restoration of the Billie Holiday Theatre, and has announced his intent to grant an additional $500,000 to the project in Fiscal Year 2018.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, please visit