Dance New Amsterdam Facing Imminent Eviction

07/07/2010 9:57 AM |

DNA Dance New Amsterdam

Back in May we learned that the MTA was close to evicting Lower Manhattan’s only venue for experimental theater, 3LD, and early this morning another way-Downtown arts institution sent notice of likely eviction in one week: Dance New Amsterdam. Located in the city-owned Sun Building at 280 Broadway, right across Chambers Street from City Hall, the 26-year-old dance and performing arts institution DNA was encouraged to stay in Lower Manhattan as part of the post-9/11 revitalization effort—the same one that put 3LD in its current situation—with over $4 million in grants and public money between 2004 and 2007, part of which was later rescinded, leaving parts of the 25,000 square foot space unfinished.

Since then DNA, like any subsidized arts institution, has been operating in the red or very near it, and though a new director since 2008 has helped restructure immensely, the center—which includes two galleries, six studios, a 130-seat theater and administrative offices—owes over $500,000 in rent and will be taken to landlord tenant court on July 14 and likely evicted.

Earlier this year, Dance Theater Workshop and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company brokered a partnership to avoid similar situations for their respective companies, and perhaps a last-minute supporter will come to DNA’s aid. However, much like with 3LD, the city seems largely responsible for DNA’s troubles, encouraging a small but vital experimental arts non-profit to expand aggressively with ample funding before cutting them off. From the tone of the DNA press statement (which you can read in full here, just remember to sign the petition!), it sounds like it may already be too late. Between this and 3LD, there will soon be exactly zero permanent performing arts venues in Lower Manhattan.

3 Comment

  • THANK YOU for publishing this article about Dance New Amsterdam, where I teach and am on the Board, as well as other similarly affected NYC cultural institutions. DNA will keep fighting and keep dancing!

    Please consider signing a statement of support for DNA at: http://www.dnadance.org/site/about/pressst… …

    Many thanks!
    Martha Chapman

  • As a former DNA employee I believe that some of what you report is inaccurate. I was hired in 2004 and was part of the staff that worked through DNA’s move from Soho to the Financial District. The city was in no way “largely responsible for DNA’s troubles,” nor did the city encourage DNA to “expand aggressively with ample funding before cutting them off.”

    DNA’s problems stem largely from poor decision making at the executive level, coupled with a lack of oversight by its board of directors. At its Soho location DNA’s (formerly Dance Space Center) rent was half of what it would be when it moved to 280 Broadway in 2006. DNA lost its lease at 451 Broadway and made the decision to move into a more expensive space, instead of looking at economical options. The city provided incentives for DNA to move into the much larger and more expensive space. Executives at DNA knew full well that the financial breaks were temporary.

    Staff at DNA was told that the increase in rent would be covered by revenue generated by the new, larger theater to be built at 280 Broadway. Performances at 451 Broadway were being held in one of the studios, lit like a black-box theater. It was obvious to many staff members including myself that the construction and running of the new theater would be costly, questioning its viability as a financial panacea for DNA’s woes.

    Costs for many elements of DNA’s build-out were way out of scale for a struggling non-profit and contributed to the organization’s financial state. Plans were underway for a floating, glass-encased staircase that would cost in excess of $100,000. It was left uncompleted, framed in plywood instead of glass. There are many other examples I could site.

    While I value DNA’s contributions to the dance world, I don’t doubt that teachers would find other jobs were it allowed to dissolve. Whether under new leadership or not, it’s time for DNA to own up to its mistakes. Blaming the city is misleading and wrong.

  • Economic Apocalypse… 9/11 money ran out… long-term economic non-sustainability.

    It seems to me that alternative exit strategies should have been considered a year ago, 2 years ago, or more. When there’s no more money for cops (and cops are in line at the money trough ahead of you), it’s time to consider other options.

    What is with the attachment to a certain address, neighborhood or zip code? This town does have plenty of trains, you know.

    Slicing rent down to a fraction of what it currently is by moving to a far cheaper space (perhaps Brooklyn?) is still an option, but maybe should have been considered before it had gotten this far.

    How can the city be blamed for not having any more grant money? No one has any money (except Wall Street, still hoarding all that TARP cash.)

    Responsible company Board members (who are not guilty of malfeasance) look at balance sheets every few months and are supposed to consider the big picture, steering organizations in a pragmatic and sensible fashion.

    This is not something that “just happened”. Anyone claiming surprise must have been asleep at the wheel. Sadly, it appears that group-think and Magical Thinking is still the default response.

    Cut losses. Move the operation to Brooklyn while you still can. If you still can.