W.T.C. culture groups talk to C.B. 1

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Representatives from the four cultural institutions selected for the arts and museum complex at the redeveloped World Trade Center site told residents what kinds of amenities they could expect when the complex opens in five years.

In June, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced The Joyce Theater, The Drawing Center, The Signature Theater and The Freedom Center as the winners of a competition to occupy the center. One key selection criterion was, “What are you doing for the community?” Anita Contini, L.M.D.C. vice president for memorial, cultural and civic programs, said at a July 21 meeting of Community Board 1.

For the next six months, the four groups will work on specific programming and the layout of their space, Contini said. Some amenities that will likely be incorporated include a public atrium within the Freedom Center, a ground-floor dance rehearsal space at the Joyce that will have glass windows to allow passersby to watch, and kid-friendly programming from all four institutions.

Residents asked the most questions about the Freedom Center, a new concept by Tom Bernstein, president of Chelsea Piers and a former partner with President George W. Bush when they owned the Texas Rangers baseball team. The center will be a “hub” of stories about the worldwide struggle for freedom, Bernstein said. He has engaged a diverse advisory board, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Anthony Romero, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union. Bernstein said the planners will work hard to avoid an overtly patriotic tone.

“From the abyss, there might be a tremendous opportunity to educate,” he said in describing the genesis of the project following Sept. 11, 2001.

Contini said that certain “very key questions” have yet to be worked out, such as whether or not the four institutions will be paying rent for their space.

The L.M.D.C. is funding a feasibility study for the groups and is planning to set up some sort of matching grant program once there are cost estimates for the building.

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