Where the West Village and the Meatpacking District fuse, one subterranean room in a swanky new building is being rented out with an almost unbelievably-low price tag: $1 for the next 99 years.
“It truly takes a village to put together a project like this,” said Randi Berry, the executive director of IndieSpace, a nonprofit that supports independent theater in the city. She joined with representatives of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, HERE Arts Center and the New Ohio Theatre on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to celebrate the opening of the West Village Rehearsal Co-Op, a dedicated space for the four organizations at 60-74 Gansevoort Street that’s been years in the making — and has already been put to use, according to Kristin Marting, HERE’s co-founder and artistic director.
At the end of a walk through winding hallways, artists and visitors arrive at the room: a modest but promising space. One of the walls, painted white, is well-suited for projecting video footage, Rattlestick’s Artistic Director, Daniella Topol, told Chelsea News. And the “sprung floor” was designed to support dancers.
“I can’t wait to see all the great work that comes out of these doors and goes into these doors,” said Carla Hoke-Miller, director of Theater Programs and Partnerships at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “A space to work is a human right.” IndieSpace will work out of the room for six months of the year; each of the other three theater companies will take over the space for two month stints.
Carving Out Space
Negotiation of the deal with Aurora Capital Associates and William Gottlieb Real Estate, who were in charge of the development, began in 2018, according to Council Member Erik Bottcher, who took part as a staffer to his predecessor, former City Council Member Corey Johnson. “It wasn’t always easy, but this was such an incredible collaboration,” Bottcher said. Community Board 2 played an integral role in securing the lease and filling the space.
Speakers at the Jan. 24 ribbon cutting ceremony commented on the significance of the location—and also its drawbacks. “This neighborhood in particular is known around the world for being such an important place in the history of arts and culture for our country,” Bottcher said. “But, let’s face it, it has been a challenge in recent decades with the rising real estate prices.”
Arts and cultural organizations were hit especially hard during the pandemic, Berry said. From March to April of 2020 alone, 60% of those working in the city’s arts sector lost their jobs, according to data from the City Council. Those involved in the new Gansevoort Street co-op see it as a step in a better direction—and are already calling for more.
“Let’s make rehearsal co-ops a part of every single new development in New York City,” Berry said. Her proposition was met by cheers.
“It wasn’t always easy, but this was such an incredible collaboration.” Council Member Erik Bottcher