Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A bad sign at the former countercultural theater on Avenue B

So, the other day I noticed that Chico (and friends) had created new murals on the long-abandoned former church on Avenue B between 11th Street and 12th Street...

Then I noticed this. An asbestos abatement notice for work starting May 24.

I've been waiting for something to happen to this space for the last few years. It was a movie theater for many years, first the Bijou in 1926, then the Charles. (The theater closed in 1975.) A fire nearly destroyed the building in October 2006.

There had been talk of fixing up the place for the tenant — the Elim Pentecostal Church. But those plans never panned out. Last June, I toured the space with the Rev. Carlos Torres. (See that post here.)

He had plans to sell the space to a developer. The ground-floor would house the church and a community center. The upper levels of the new building would be for (likely, luxury) housing. He didn't have a timeline for any of this; and there seemed to be a lot of red tape involved in any plans. However, what was clear: The building was beyond repair and needed to come down. (Having been inside, I can vouch that it would take a fortune and a few miracles to get this place up to code.)

So the asbestos sign. Asbestos removal often precedes a demolition. However, there aren't any permits on file for the space with the DOB.

I'd love to see this space returned to its previous life as a theater, such as when it was the Charles here in 1966. Ha,right?

(Read more about this addresses' history as a theater here.)

Regardless, I hope that any new plans do include a rebuilt church and community center along with the nice apartments. Anything other than another lost block of just high-end housing in the East Village.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Revival planned for church and theater on Avenue B

Inside the Charles

Former landmark countercultural theater now for rent on Avenue B


Lisa said...

The small red brick building on the NE corner of 12th is already abandoned and boarded up - a sign of what was to come.

Thanks for this great shot, Grieve. I'll cherish it even more after the ugly glass block goes up, eradicating any trace of this old theater.

HEY19 said...

This is some of Chico's better work, he just needs to stay away from drawing people, they all end up looking like a mix of his mom and Bernie Williams...

Melanie said...

I walked by here 2 days ago in the rain--took some photos and got the feeling that these buildings might go and make way for something else. I looked up and saw the boarded up windows--the shop on the corner was closed and asbestos removal is expected. Chico has a new mural up for the new shop has opened in the middle of the street.
Is asbestos removal the same as asbestos abatement??Abatement is when you remove it and the structure still stands. Is removal--destruction??I don't know. All I know is it must be done properly by certified people or it is a dangerous thing. Thanks Grieve for more info.

Anonymous said...

That building has been a terrible neighbor to the school next door -- sidewalks unshoveled and littered with debris, falling-down fence on the corner, etc. I'll be sorry to see a yuppie hive go up in its place, but good riddance

chris flash said...

I've been inside and on the roof as well. Aside from a few holes cut in it by the Fire Dept, the roof is sound -- it just needs to be rebuilt in some spots and resurfaced. The interior needs much gutting and new sheetrock, as well as upgraded electrical service and heating/cooling systems, but, other than that, this place can be made whole again for less than $500k. The problem is that in this hyper-inflated market, the land is "worth" more than the theater.

While Rev. Carlos sincerely wants to restore the theater so that he can have his church meetings there, he is not real estate savvy and could lose the theater due to the building violations that have piled up against it. In addition, he's getting heavy pressure from real estate swine who are frothing at the prospect of getting that parcel, which includes the vacant corner lot.

I would hope that somehow the theater can be preserved, even if that means developers building on top and around it.

But, at the end of the day, money talks, doesn't it????

EV Grieve said...

Thanks, Chris. Well said. I trust your judgment on the renovations. And I should have noted how sincere Rev. Carlos is about his intentions for turning this space into something good for the community. However, as you noted, the real-estate swine are ever-present.

l.a.m.f. said...

Hey Chris, do you know whatever happened with Frank fixing up the place?

chris flash said...

About a year and a half ago, a group of volunteers, including Frank, attempted to fix up the ground floor storefronts so that rental income from the stores would fund the interior theater renovations. Unfortunately, the city put a Stop Work order on the building until other violations were cured. Suspicions were later raised that real estate scum desiring the site are sabotaging any effort by Rev. Carlos to restore the theater and make it viable by dropping quarters on him whenever they see activity there.

Rev. Carlos doesn't have the funds to address the violations nor for the HUGE monetary fines that go with them, so, again, he's susceptible to being forced to sell out to a developer. Meanwhile, all he can do is sit on the place.

Anonymous said...

As someone with construction experience and with all due respect to Chris, $500,000 isn't going to get the building close to to code much less ready for some kind of repurposing as a theater or an inspectable community facility. Add to that the costs related to asbestos removal and we got ourselves a slow moving train wreck. I've always dreamt about seeing an institution like Film Forum, PS 122, Anthology Film Archives or the Nuyorican Poets Cafe being able to muster a capital campaign around the possibilites in that space, but sadly that ship has long since sailed. I think we see a tear down and fenced vacant lot for quite some time as some kind of speculative entity sits on the corner waiting for the "next" upswing in the real estate market. They may be waiting a long time.

Anonymous said...

While many of your comments have been kind and there is a real concern to restore the Elim church property, or develop new, the community needs to know that after the fire partially damaged the church, the congregation received 250k in insurance money but the "Pastor" blew the money in his own personal expenses. Te insurance company did not know that Rev. Torres had been convicted of aggravated arson and insurance fraud in his home state, NJ. For these offenses, he served probation. How about this. The law is going to deal with him with what he has done to the congregation. He is a wolf dressed in sheep clothes.