Neighbors want the movies, but not the bright lights

By Amanda Kludt

The much-anticipated opening of the IFC Center in the former Waverly Theater at 323 Sixth Ave. in early May could cause some problems for residents in the surrounding blocks. While community leaders say they are hopeful that the movie house will improve the area on Sixth Ave., they are worried about the lights on the facade and the use of the courtyard space behind the theater.

According to residents, the facade will have bright lights of changing colors that would speckle a pattern on the sidewalk. There will also be a digital image above the entrance that will change every 30 to 60 seconds.

The IFC Center did not return calls by press time.

“We’re afraid it’s going to be too much for the area,” said Marilyn Dorato, secretary of the Greenwich Village Block Associations. She said that they will have to wait and see what the lights end up looking like, but she was skeptical of the IFC Center, since their representative, manager John Vanco, didn’t provide many answers. “It seems to us they are being secretive about their plans and that’s suspicious,” she said.

Sharon Sullivan, president of the Central Village Block Association, echoed Dorato’s sentiments. “We were surprised at how little information they seemed to have,” she said. Sullivan said the cinema group wouldn’t admit to having flashing or spinning lights, but they said the lights, shining through a grid, would create patterns on the sidewalk. “We don’t want the effect to be tawdry and we don’t want it flashing into people’s windows,” said Sullivan. “This is not Times Sq., this is Greenwich Village.”

Sullivan said the community is also worried about the use of the courtyard that faces out onto Cornelia St. “Their initial plan was to have galas there after the screenings,” she said, noting that IFC also planned to rent the facility out to independent filmmakers to have their own screenings and galas. There was also talk of an outdoor cafe. However, zoning laws may prohibit the use of the courtyard altogether.

Both Dorato and Sullivan said they will have to wait until the theater opens before they have further meetings or bring up any issues regarding the IFC Center. “We were happy that they bought the theater. We’re hoping it will kick-start that block,” said Dorato, also adding that she wants the IFC Center to know they are on the community’s radar: “Like it or not,” she said, “they do have to have a relationship with the community.”