Volume 75, Number 46 | April 5 - 11 2006

Villager file photo by Scot Surbeck

Flying on the trapeze last summer in Tribeca

Trapeze school hopes to make the swing to Spring

By Ellen Keohane

People swinging on trapezes and tumbling through the air has been an unusual, yet familiar, sight in the Hudson River Park for the past five years. This fall the New York Trapeze School will need to move from its current location at Desbrosses St. due to construction in the Tribeca portion of the park. Where the school will move, however, is still up in the air.

“Obviously, it’s very difficult to find space in New York City,” said Jonathan Conant, the trapeze school’s president. With the Hudson River Park Trust’s support, the school is currently trying to find a new location within the park.

“I think the trapeze school is great, the Trust thinks it’s great and park users think it’s great,” said Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson. “Any way that we can work together with the community and the trapeze school to have them in the park, we will.”

The school originally planned to move to the roof of Pier 40 at W. Houston St. but that plan was too expensive, Conant said.

“We spent most of budget on design before realizing that we were going down a bad path,” he said. Before anything had even been built, the school had already spent $300,000, Conant said.

Although moving to the roof of Pier 40 is still a possibility if the school can come up with an alternative and less expensive plan, the Trust has since offered an alternative space just south of Pier 40 and north of the park’s outdoor tennis courts, Conant said. Before securing this new location near Spring St., the trapeze school will seek Community Board 2’s approval to move to the new location. In October 2003, the Trust proposed an ice-skating rink in an enclosed structure for the same site, but C.B. 2 rejected the plan.

“I haven’t considered where the trapeze school could move yet, but I’ve always enjoyed watching it as I pass by,” said Lawrence Goldberg, a C.B. 2 member and a new appointee by Borough President Scott Stringer to the Trust’s 13-member board of directors.

The cost of planning and executing the trapeze school’s move has been a real financial burden, Conant told the March 27 Community Board 1 Waterfront Committee meeting. The school is currently looking for ways to recuperate from these expenses, he said. To save money, Conant asked the committee if the school could keep its tent up through the summer months. Originally, the school received approval from C.B. 1 to keep its tent up until June 1.

Committee members were open to Conant’s request to keep the trapeze school’s tent up until the school has to move, most likely in September, for construction of the Hudson River Park’s Tribeca section. Committee chairperson Linda Roche said that she would write up a resolution in support of keeping the tent — with its sides open — up through the summer.

During the summer, the sides of the tent can be raised 14 feet, so there could be a view corridor through the tent, Conant explained.

The tent, which was erected for the first time in January, allows the school to offer classes through the winter months and when it rains. The school loses between $1,200 to $3,000 a day when they have to cancel classes or planned corporate events due to rain, Conant said. In addition, it costs $20,000 to $30,000 each time they erect the tent or take it down, he said.

Although the tent is beneficial to students because it helps them focus without as many distractions, an outside trapeze is important for advertising purposes, Conant noted. Much of their business comes from curious spectators who learn about the school when they notice it while passing by. As soon as the weather is consistently warm, the school plans to install a second trapeze outside, he said.

“Despite all the struggles we’ve had, everyone has been incredibly helpful and generous,” Conant said. “We have every intention of surviving.”

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