Theater for the New City Will Take Seats to the Streets With $1.7M Facelift

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 4.47.53 PMSITE The new design.

An iconic theater is getting a makeover, and it promises to be a showstopper.

“It’s going to make the Theater for the New City well known,” said Crystal Field, the theater’s executive artistic director.

Designed by award-winning architect James Wines (perhaps best known to New Yorkers as the designer of the Shake Shack) the facade will feature theater seats embellished with coats, umbrellas and programs, as if it’s intermission during a show. “We’re very proud that it isn’t one of those glass and steel designs found all over the city,” said Ms. Field, adding that the new look would be “in line with the neighborhood.”

The redesign has been a long time coming: the theater commissioned the design when it first moved to its current location in 1986, but it has languished without funding. Next Tuesday, T.N.C. will formally request financial assistance from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

UntitledDaniel Maurer

The request couldn’t be made sooner, said Ms. Field, because the theater hadn’t paid off its mortgage. In return for financial help, the city requires that the building be used as some sort of cultural space even in the event that it is sold. The providers of the mortgage did not agree to this stipulation, so the theater couldn’t go the city for help until now.

The Theater for the New City purchased its current home at 155 First Avenue 25 years ago for $717,000 and only managed to make the final mortgage payment on December 15, 2012, according to Ms. Field.

If it hears back from the city by July, as expected, the theater may be remodeled over the summer, when many of its performances are outdoors. If not, the goal is for the facelift to be completed by the middle of next year. Ms. Field is fairly confident that the funding will go through. “Councilwoman Rosie Mendez is very much in our corner, and the borough president is very interested as well,” she said.

Jonathan Weber, the theater’s administrative director, echoed the sentiment, saying he was “hopeful that the city will come through for us. They seem to be receptive to it.”

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The estimated cost of the new facade, along with the structural changes needed to support it, is approximately $1,718,000. Of this amount, T.N.C hopes to put up approximately $200,000, $90,000 of which it already has in hand.

Theater for the New City has occupied four buildings since its inception 40 years ago. “We improved the area and the neighborhood improved, and we got priced out,” Ms. Field said, explaining the relocations. “Wherever we went, the area got gentrified, and that would be the end of us.”

Now the theater will have a design that does justice to its permanent home, in which “the street is the stage and the theater is the audience,” as Ms. Field put it.