Gearing up to fight an interactive theater in Fidi
A group of downtown residents has organized to fight a plan to make the historic building at 18 William/20 Exchange Place (at Beaver) into an immersive theater experience called “Sleep No More” (I know! Not the best name when you are presenting to the neighborhood).
Keep FiDi Safe has an online petition to challenge the group’s application for a liquor license, using the argument that “our unique, historic and now residential community simply cannot absorb a large scale venue like this with the potential of hundreds more people per day, 7 nights a week.”
The meeting, now on for Tuesday, Feb. 18, 6p, was rescheduled several times after the first presentation (made in April, I think?) was a standing room only affair and the community board was forced to send the applicant back to the drawing board. (Note the location this time is 1 Centre, 19th Floor South, at the borough president’s office.)
“Sleep No More” is the New York City production of a site-specific work of theater created by British theater company Punchdrunk. It is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with inspiration also taken from film noir and the Salem witch trials. The company — dba Emursive — currently runs the show at a converted warehouse building that they call the McKittrick Hotel, way west in Chelsea. My recollection from their first presentation is that viewers move through the rooms while actors (there are more than 60 in the cast) move about them, almost like the audience is part of the show. You can sort of get a sense from this video:
Audiences enter every 15 minutes — the schedule in Chelsea has five entry times on weekdays and 10 on weekends — and this new venue downtown could accommodate hundreds at a time. That’s what has neighbors freaking out: the company said the occupancy is 3,500. (For reference, Broadway theaters hold between 500 and 1300, on average, and the David Koch theater at Lincoln Center is 2600.) “Our concerns transcend the sheer numbers and hours an alcohol fueled venue like this would present for our neighborhood’s safety, security and quality of life as we are already at tipping point with street, sidewalk and subway crowding; noise pollution; garbage overflow; heavy foot and vehicular traffic including delivery trucks needing to park on sidewalk, bottlenecks in off grid, narrow and one way streets; limited accessibility for Uber and other car hire; impeded emergency vehicle access.”
The building — best known as 20 Exchange Place — is a 57-story Art Deco building formerly known as the City Bank-Farmers Trust Building and built in 1930 for the newly merged National City Bank of New York and the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company, predecessor firms of Citigroup. It remained the company’s headquarters until 1956, sold in 1979 and is now residential on the top. You can read Tom Miller’s post on the building here and my Where in Tribeca? post here. It is my recollection from the last meeting that the cavernous space on the ground floor and below has been empty for ages…