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NYU Plans to Demolish Provincetown Playhouse

The historic Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments, 133-139 MacDougal Street

This week NYU unveiled the latest phase of their ‘NYU 2031’ Plan, which include plans to demolish the historic Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments at 133-139 MacDougal Street. GVSHP was swift to call upon the university to drop this proposal; NYU’s plans and GVSHP’s responses were covered by AM NY, the Villager, Crains NY, City Realty, the NY Sun, Backstage, and the Backstage Blog .

Provincetown Playhouse: The Provincetown Playhouse is one of the most important sites in the history of 20th century American theater — a launching pad for works of Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edward Albee, John Guare, Sam Shepherd, Charles Busch, and David Mamet, among others. The apartments over the theater have housed many well-known artists over the years who wished to be near this center of cultural vitality. When NYU bought the building and then renovated it, they touted the Playhouse’s rich history and their honor in owning and re-opening it. Additionally, NYU recently agreed to a set of “planning principles” with Borough President Stringer’s NYU Community Task Force (of which GVSHP is a member) which says that university should “ before redevelopment” in their planning. The Provincetown Playhouse is a key historic site within the proposed South Village Historic District, which NYU promised to support; demolition of a historic lynchpin in the proposed district like the Playhouse will damage the chances of landmarking the entire area moving ahead.

GVSHP wrote NYU President John Sexton strongly urging the university to rethink this plan, and wrote to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission urging them to move ahead swiftly with the proposed designation of the South Village Historic District section containing the Provincetown Playhouse to save this historic building.

‘NYU 2031’ Long-Range Plans: The latest stage of NYU’s long-term planning process showed greater transparency and engagement with the public than in the past, but also showed some very disconcerting concepts. NYU continues to project adding as much as 3.6 million square feet of new space in and around its ‘campus core’ over the next 23 years. Analysis by GVSHP of NYU’s growth (which was distributed to attendees at Wednesday's NYU Open House) shows that 3.6 million sq. ft. is the equivalent of all new NYU buildings built in the area over the last 42 years, or the equivalent of 20 more of their highly controversial new 26-story dorms on East 12th Street. This shows that NYU’s projected growth in our neighborhoods in their 2031 plan is actually considerably accelerated over their past growth, which belies the impression the university has given.

The 2031 plans also showed that NYU is no longer considering Long Island City as potential location for satellite or remote facilities, and that the university has narrowed such options to Governor's Island, the East Side Medical Corridor, and Downtown Brooklyn — a development we find very disappointing. At the same time, NYU is contemplating large-scale developments in and around their ‘campus core,’ in spite of commitments to “prioritize identifying opportunities to decentralize facilities” as part of the planning principles. GVSHP continues to push hard to get NYU to look for satellite locations if they need to grow, and to remain within their existing footprint and envelope in the Village.

How To Help:

Write to NYU President John Sexton urging him to reconsider plans to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse, and to reduce the University’s plans for growth in the neighborhood — go here for sample letters and contact information.

Come to the Community Board #2 public hearing on NYU’s plans for the Provincetown Playhouse on Wednesday, May 28th at 6:30 P.M. at the Caring Community, 20 Washington Square North; NYU will present their plans, and the public will be given an opportunity to respond.

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