NYU announces it will preserve theater space
The historic Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments, 133-139 MacDougal Street, with area NYU has proposed to preserve highlighted
After a protracted campaign to save the Provincetown Playhouse theater from demolition, last Friday NYU announced through Borough President Stringer’s NYU Community Task Force that they were revising their plans to now include preservation of the theater space, and promised to retain the four walls of the theater and its facade, and to restore historic details and conditions to the theater which the university had destroyed or eliminated in its 1998 renovation of the space. This is an enormously important step in the right direction, and a victory for our efforts and the hundreds of people who wrote, called, and e-mailed NYU urging them to change their plans. A special thank you goes to the 100 leaders in the community and in the world of preservation, theater, and the arts who joined us in urging NYU President John Sexon to reconsider the university’s demolition plans. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO MADE THIS POSSIBLE.
However, NYU’s announcement still leaves many questions unanswered and many issues unaddressed. GVSHP has written to President Sexton asking for clarification and written commitments regarding the physical preservation of the theater, and for assurances that the theater space will in fact maintained in perpetuity for theater use (in the 1990s NYU threatened to turn it into classroom space), and will be made available to theater groups for usage. Equally important, the remainder of the building slated for demolition is also historically significant, having housed the first Provincetown Playhouse theater, the Washington Square Bookstore, and the Liberal Club, which were centers of Village radical, intellectual and cultural life in the early 1900s, frequented by Margaret Sanger, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Max Eastman, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis. Additionally, the Provincetown Apartments attracted noteworthy residents in the arts over the years, including Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, and Dorothy Gillespie. In signing the “planning principles” with community groups like GVSHP and elected officials, NYU promised to “Prioritize re-use before new development,” and NYU promised to support designation of the proposed South Village Historic District, of which 133-139 MacDougal Street is a key part. In light of this, and the building’s very significant cultural history, we feel it is important to continue to push NYU to preserve and re-use the building, in addition to the theater space.
To find out more, read coverage in the New York Times, City Room, Variety, Gothamist, and The New York Post.
HOW TO HELP:
Please attend the public hearing on NYU’s plan for the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments on Wednesday, May 28th at 6:30 P.M. at NYU Law School Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South. Let NYU know that preserving the box of the theater is a very good step in the right direction, but the entire building warrants preservation and more details and firmer commitments are needed regarding the future of the theater.