Volume 80, Number 27 | December 2 - 8, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

Historic seat ends, at left, from the pre-renovation Provincetown Playhouse theater have been embedded into the walls at the end of the seat rows in the refurbished and reconstructed theater.

Theater rehab drama:
With New York University poised to publicly unveil the Provincetown Playhouse in its new School of Law building on MacDougal St., preservationist Andrew Berman on Monday fired off an alarmed e-mail blast, charging that the university has “broken yet another promise” regarding the project, of which he has been a strident critic. Specifically, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation director says, N.Y.U. has flouted its commitment on the theater’s seats — and he isn’t about to take it sitting down. Berman points to a Feb. 1, 2010, letter that Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U.’s vice president of government affairs and community engagement, wrote to Borough President Scott Stringer in which she stated that the “end pieces of the chairs, which appear to be from the 1940’s, are being preserved and fastened to the end of each row of seating.” But Berman told us he had it on the word of a source that the seat ends were, in fact, being sequestered in a “display area” somewhere inside the theater. He wrote John Sexton, N.Y.U.’s president, on Nov. 19, saying that, with the failure to reuse the seat ends on the actual chairs in the renovated theater, the university had “broken this pledge,” noting that the seat ends, along with the space’s four walls, are virtually all that’s left of the historic theater. Berman said he never heard back from N.Y.U. following his letter. However, Hurley explained to us that the seat ends have actually been installed in the walls at the end of each row of seats. In the end (pun intended), Hurley said, “Attaching 1940-ish, metal ends to what need to be new, functioning seats didn’t work.” After we subsequently informed him that the seat ends are actually set into the concrete walls near the seats, Berman shot back he never expected they would be “entombed” this way. “That Poe House approach to preservation pleases no one expect the spinmeisters of N.Y.U.,” he said. He was referring to what he derided as the “Home Depot-style” facsimile of the former Poe House in the School of Law building on W. Third St., for which the original Poe House was razed. For her part, Hurley said, Berman “dealt himself out of the conversation” on the Provincetown Playhouse’s renovation a long time ago, and that she didn’t understand why he was getting into such detailed criticism now. “Whether or not Andrew thinks this was a success is irrelevant,” she said of the theater project, adding she never saw Berman’s letter to Sexton. “The university is not going to be negotiating with Andrew Berman in any realm,” she added. “He’s incapable of negotiating. At this point, it is irrelevant whatever Andrew Berman says.” The preservationist wasn’t buying N.Y.U.’s seat-ends story, blasting back, “I find it amazing that N.Y.U. is embarking on a 20-year, 6-million-square-foot, multi-multi-million-dollar expansion plan, but can’t fasten 1940’s seat ends to new seats.” Hurley said the tweaking of the seat-ends scenario was broached with Stringer’s Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development, at a meeting that Berman missed. But Berman told us he only missed one of the task force’s 50 meetings, and that his representative at that meeting, as well as others who attended it, reported there was no mention of any change regarding the seat-ends scheme. At any rate, Hurley said the community can come see for themselves and decide whether they approve of the renovation job, when the university hosts an open house at the “refurbished” Provincetown Playhouse, on MacDougal St. between W. Fourth and W. Third Sts., on Sat., Dec. 11, from noon to 5 p.m. There will be free cider and cookies and live piano music. A new exhibition on the theater’s history will also be on view in the Provincetown Playhouse’s lobby.

Jorma plays Greenwich House:
The Greenwich House Arts Benefit, on Thurs., Dec. 9, at the Greenwich House Music School will be a true community effort, and will have a special guest this year. The event will feature local restaurants and musicians at a cocktail hour, followed by an exclusive dinner performance by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. His performance at Greenwich House will follow two shows celebrating his 70th birthday at the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side.

Unfortunately, the dinner for the Greenwich House Arts Benefit is nearly sold out, with board members already reserving the remaining few.


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