I received the following, below, via email. Since it was written as a letter to New York magazine in response to the magazine’s recent piece on the controversy surrounding the landmarking (or not landmarking) of NYU’s I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers — and the sense, however tenuous, that my alma mater might actually be realizing how much blood boiling and hatred they have generated in their surrounding community — I felt it wouldn’t be inappropriate to publish it, especially as I suspect top New York editor Adam Moss wouldn’t let such a long piece see print.
Whatever else one might say or not say about the historian Gail Cohen, who wrote the letter, she does her research. Read the whole thing and you’ll see why, among other things, NYU’s Alicia Hurley is, in my view and in the view of most observers, a despicable and deceitful liar.
Of course, some of the blame this time around has to go to the members of Community Board 2, some of whom, I have heard it alleged, were bought off, literally or figuratively, by Alicia Hurley and her henchfolk at NYU. I do not know whether that is true or not, but they certainly seemed rather compliant at the community board meeting I attended.
Anyway, I left in the capitalized words for effect. The makers of Bayer aspirin can pay me later.
John Sexton, Alicia Hurley, Scott Stringer, the Villager, Community Board 2, and the Off-Broadway League are committing TREASON AGAINST GREENWICH VILLAGE, our THEATRE HERITAGE, and our AMERICAN HERITAGE by their Revised Plan to demolish most of the Provincetown Playhouse, and all of the historic buildings next to it that were the heart of bohemia in the teens and 1920’s – in order to build new offices, and a Law Research Center on the site and property of the historic Provincetown Playhouse.
John Sexton has tried to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse for years. His first plan in the 1990’s was to make it into classrooms. That plan was successfully fought, and assurances were given that it would not be destroyed. Then in April of 2008 NYU released their plan again to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse. There have since been two other plans. The Revised Plan by NYU just saves the current facade and some walls while destroying the rest of the building, and all of the other historic buildings next to it on MacDougal Street. They hired the architect 9 months before they released their plan in April to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse. They have not sought any alternatives of other properties to build their new Law Research Center on though their exists a multitude of choices to build or renovate on a different location.
Without telling anyone, NYU’s School of Education that had control of the Provincetown Playhouse in 1997 destroyed the original historic stage and dome built by the Founder of the Provincetown Players that had been there all those years. People only recently found out about this, and Alicia Hurley only admitted it several weeks ago. She said they destroyed the original historic stage to put in air conditioning. So much for their Tribute to, and Honoring a Cultural Institution as stated in the NYU Revised Plan for the Provincetown Playhouse property.
NYU kept the Provincetown Playhouse dark for 6 years. The legendary African-American Director, Woodie King tried to have use of the Provincetown Playhouse after 1984 when the School of Law purchased it. He was denied putting on professional plays at the theatre. Then around 1994, James Houghton, Founder of Signature Theatre was about to sign a lease with John Sexton who was then Dean of the School of Law. At the last minute before the signing of the lease, John Sexton stopped all contact with Signature Theatre. They were told by others that NYU was going to sell the building or gut it back then. As far as I know the Tisch Graduate
Theatre Department has not had use of the Provincetown Playhouse. That has been NYU’s response to those in Professional Theatre.
The Revised Plan is not per se about the Provincetown Playhouse. It is about one thing – building the NYU School of Law’s Research Center. The politicians have all played along with this terrible deed. That little row of buildings that also house the Provincetown Playhouse is responsible for Greenwich Village BEING the Village. The reason why people initially flock to NYU with a sense of that important heritage. STOP NYU FROM DESTROYING THE HISTORIC PROVINCETOWN PLAYHOUSE which has been declared by the New York State Preservation Officer eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. This happen before Community Board 2 met, yet they stilled voted to go along with NYU’s Revised Plan as did Scott Stringer. Everyone else spoke against the NYU Revised Plan.
I can tell you that this deed that NYU plans to carry out in the near future is a mistake on their part. HISTORY WILL HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. NYU is not a neighbor at all. For months, Alicia Hurley continually stated that the entire building was gutted in 1940 when the facade was altered. This was totally untrue, and only admitted by NYU in recent weeks. A good neighbor does not lie. A good neighbor does not intentionally destroy the neighborhood, and certainly does not destroy as they already have an historic building such as the Provincetown Playhouse that was responsible for the rise of the American Theatre as we know it today. The Provincetown Players (1915 – 1929 the last from the original group) had as its members the entire Intellectual World of the teens and 1920’s.
There is an entire African-American Heritage at the Provincetown Playhouse – from the first African-American in a major dramatic role (Charles Gilpin), to Paul Robeson, and the entire cast of major African-American actors of the period that acted in IN ABRAHAM’S BOSOM by Paul Green which in 1927 was awarded the Pulitzer-Prize (Rose McClendon, Abbie Mitchell, Jules Bledsoe, Frank Wilson and Stanley Greene).
There is an extensive history at the building after the Provincetown Players, and the Experimental Theatre Inc. that followed them. Edward Albee’s play ZOO STORY premiered there, as did plays by John Guare and David Mamet. Producer Harold Prince, and others have advocated that the Tisch Graduate Theatre Program or professional theatre group be given use of the Provincetown Playhouse, and not the School of Education as planned which destroyed on purpose the original stage that hosted the giant playwrights, actors, directors, stage designers of the times. Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Edmund Wilson, Max Eastman, Mike Gold, Ida Rauh (the Duse of MacDougal Street), Mary Blair, Robert Edmond Jones, Cleon Throckmorton, James Light, Susan Glaspell, Floyd Dell, Jasper Deeter, John Reed, Louise Bryant, Aline Bernstein and others. Their memory is being assaulted by John Sexton, Alicia Hurley and the Architect. I was privileged to know some of the Provincetown Players. What NYU is doing is wrong on all fronts, I can assure the readers of this magazine.
Please contact the NYU Board of Trustees, their donors, and politicians. John Sexton and NYU must be stopped from proceeding with their Revised Plan for the Provincetown Playhouse. John Sexton is not a neighbor, though the politicians might see him as such NYU being one of the largest employers in New York, ad buyers in media etc. John Sexton is running a Global expansion of NYU, and not just in Greenwich Village. This expansion should not include the historic PROVINCETOWN PLAYHOUSE, and other Historic Buildings on MacDougal Street. Just because they have already destroyed the Provincetown Playhouse significance by getting rid of the original stage and dome does not qualify NYU to continue building, and rebuilding. That little row of buildings means much to many. It is only seen as real estate to John Sexton. It is real estate that still inspires us today. As the plaque in front of the Provincetown Playhouse which co-founder and Pulitzer-Prize writer Susan Glaspell had melted down for the WWII effort stated as a tribute to George Cram Cook, her husband, “And we shall make this cold world all dance and music. The dance of flame obedient to dream.”
John Reed etched on an old hitching post at the theatre that had been a stable – HERE PEGASUS WAS HITCHED. Let Pegasus remained hitched at that very building that symbolizes our aspirations, and what life can become when we bring our caring to bear upon our ways of doing. A Law Research Center is not appropriate for that historic property.