Cultural cornerstone: Perelman Performing Arts Center opens in Lower Manhattan near World Trade Center

The exterior of the Perelman Performing Arts Center
Photo by Max Parrott

The final piece of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site was finally completed Wednesday with the opening of the Perelman Performing Arts Center in Lower Manhattan.

Considered the cultural cornerstone of the center’s reconstruction more than two decades after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Perelman PAC is perhaps the grandest addition to the area’s art scene. The first public performance takes place there on Sept. 19.

There to cut the ribbon on the brand new center was Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and current board chair of the Perelman PAC; nearly two decades ago, as mayor, Bloomberg advocated for a performing arts center as part of the World Trade Center’s reconstruction.

Alongside One World Trade Center, the 9-11 Memorial and Museum, and the Oculus transit hub, the Perelman PAC serves as the “cultural cornerstone.” 

“From the beginning of the rebuilding process, our administration believed that alongside the Memorial Museum and housing and commerce, a center for culture and creativity also belonged here. And that the arts would not only bring new life to the site, but help us to build a greater future for Lower Manhattan,” Bloomberg said. “The arts, we all know, is the heart of what makes New York a beacon light for people around the world. And Lower Manhattan has always been a crossroads of the world and a cauldron of creativity.”

Bloomberg cut the ribbon Wednesday along with PAC NYC Executive Director Khady Kamara and Artistic Director Bill Rauch. Governor Kathy Hochul was also in attendance, and said the center’s opening symbolized the city’s post-9/11 rebirth.

“Rather than destruction, we began construction. And instead of death and devastation, we were reborn in countless ways. Basically, New York, at its essence, doesn’t just survive. We thrive. And that’s the difference,” Hochul said. “We always prevail. Always can, always will. I am more confident about the future of this city today than ever in my life. And the people in this room are part of what gives me that confidence. Mayor Bloomberg to you, thank you for writing the playbook during your time, inheriting a situation that no one could have envisioned.”

Mayor Eric Adams applauded Bloomberg for his efforts to secure the funding necessary to make the PAC NYC dream a reality.

“This is a significant moment for all of us,” Adams said. “And the more that we open artistic places and relationships and creativity breaks down those barriers that we introduce ourselves to others, most importantly that we introduce to ourselves. It’s the beginning of the healing process. So let the music play.”

Michael Bloomberg
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, board chair of the Perelman Performing Arts CenterPhoto by Max Parrott
Photo by Max Parrott
Mayor Eric AdamsPhoto by Max Parrott
Perelman PAC grand opening ribbon cutting
Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Kathy Hochul, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ronald Perelman cut the ribbon on the new Perelman Performing Arts Center in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 13, 2023.Photo by Max Parrott

Also on hand was the venue’s namesake, Ronald O. Perelman, the famed businessman, philanthropist and benefactor.

“I think right from the beginning, Mike and I agreed that arts are more than just entertainment. They are probably the only common language that the world speaks. And through the arts, hopefully we can open up dialogue with peoples around the world and eliminate the hatred and the violence and the destruction that has faced us throughout time.”

The PAC NYC makes its public debut on Sept. 19 with a special performance called “NYC Tapestry: Home as Refuge,” featuring artists from across the world who have made New York their home through the years. The lineup includes Laurie Anderson, Raven Chacon, Natalie Diaz, and thingNY, Angélique Kidjo, Michael Mwenso, Mwenso and the Shakes, Emel, Wang Guowei, and Forro in the Dark.

Other highlights scheduled for its inaugural season include the world premiere of Laurence Fishburne’s one-man play “Like They Do in The Movies”; a reimagined version of the Broadway classic “Cats” set in the competitions of New York City’s ballroom dance culture; and “Watch Night,” a multi-disciplinary work from the team of Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones, poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, composer Tamar-kali and Lauren Whitehead. 

PAC NYC will also be home to public conversations featuring celebrities such as Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith and Barbara Pierce Bush with Jenna Bush Hager. It will also feature the 2023 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition this October. 

The Perelman PAC features three principal venues: the John E. Zuccotti Theater, seating up to 450 people and named for the prominent businessman and real estate magnet; the Mike Nichols Theater, a 250-seat performance space honoring the famed director; and the Doris Duke Theater, an intimate 99-seat setting named for the New York socialite.

Shaped like a cube, the 138-foot-tall building features “radically flexible capabilities” to accommodate a wide variety of programs and performances. The architectural firm REX, led by founding principal Joshua Ramus, developed the space in collaboration with executive architect Davis Brody Bond, theater consultant Charcoalblue, and acoustician Threshold Acoustics.

Ronald Perelman with Michael Douglas