Disappearing act for Provincetown Playhouse?
Left: Three 1820s houses recently landmarked (the middle one is believed to have been a lesbian bar in the 1920s). Right: Provincetown Playhouse. (File photo by Jefferson Siegel)
A historic incubator of Greenwich Village bohemia and American theater is slated for the wrecking ball.
New York University has announced plans to demolish the 1918 Provincetown Playhouse, which featured the early plays of Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edward Albee. The building is not landmarked.
“This is a world famous historic site that is critical to the development of alternative theater in America,” said Andrew Berman, president of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “To demolish it is sacrilege.”
NYU has proposed tearing down a block of buildings, 133-139 MacDougal St., and replacing them with one, slightly larger structure for its law school, among other uses. It has also proposed incorporating a similar-sized theater into the project.
“They want to demolish a theater, offices, and residences in order to build a theater, offices, and offices,” Berman said.
NYU officials did not return phone calls seeking comment, but John Beckman, a university spokesman, said in an email, “the overwhelming tone from people in the neighborhood is moderate and constructive; Andrew Berman's comments are the exception, not the rule,” and he called the plans, “sensitive and sensible.”Last year, NYU and community leaders ironed out a set of “planning principles” with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that call for greater consultation with the community and more contextualized architecture. Many see this project as the first test of this approach.
The university owns the building as of right, meaning that they do not have to bring it to the local community board for comment, but they are expected to present their proposals to the board next month.
Brad Hoylman, chairman of Community Board 2, said he looked favorably on the initial proposal.
“The plan that NYU has presented shows a degree of sensitivity to the neighborhood as well as to the historical uses of the building,” he said. “They could be building a lot larger than they are.”
-- David Freedlander