Theater for the New City Celebrates Paying Off Mortgage

by Jacob Coakley


Theater for the New City recently completed a three-year fundraising drive to finish paying off their mortgage.
Theater for the New City recently completed a three-year fundraising drive to finish paying off their mortgage.

Well, here’s a theatre finance story you don’t read too often: Theatre for the New City, a New York City theatre company, now owns their building debt-free and will celebrate by holding a ceremonial mortgage burning party on Saturday, Jan. 26. Emboldened by a $30,000 gift from the Peg Santvoord Foundation in 2010 the Theater undertook a mortgage payoff campaign that ultimately mobilized more than 200 small donors. Theater for the New City bought their building at 155 1st Ave., between East 9th and East 10th St. in NYC’s East Village with a $717,000 mortgage in 1987.


NEW YORK  -- On Saturday, January 26 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Theater for the New City  will ceremonially burn its mortgage to celebrate becoming debt-free.  The gathering, to be attended by elected officials, local activists, artists and celebrities, will include performances and the opening of an art exhibit.

With the "Fiscal Cliff" staring the country in the face, the mortgage payoff was accomplished in a three year push which mobilized over 200 small donors.  The mortgage campaign had been initiated with a $30,000 gift from the Peg Santvoord Foundation in 2010.  This early money notwithstanding, the completed campaign now testifies to the tremendous support TNC enjoys from its community.

At the mortgage event, the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers will bless TNC's newly-secured permanent home with Native American dance, as they did in 1986 when the theater first moved into the First Avenue Retail Market Building.  A plaque will be unveiled that contains the names of all donors--over 200 in number--who contributed toward the effort.  Major donors included Gerald Rupp, the Peg Santvoord Foundation, Aviva Spring, Betsy Von Furstenberg, Daniel Rose, Nesbitt Blaisdell.  The Peg Santvoord Foundation gave a final $10,000 as a coup de grace.

Coinciding with the mortgage event will be the opening of a retro-spectacle, "TNC: 40 Years of Struggle and Triumph," an art exhibit curated by Peter Ketchum with historical support from Carolyn Ratcliff.  It features programs, scripts, and photos of historic TNC productions including plays by Charles Ludlam, Maria Irene Fornes and Sam Shepard.

TNC's mortgage started out at $717,000 in 1987 and the campaign to pay it off took only three years.  Last year $21,000 was raised and this year, the final $45,000 was secured.  Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director of TNC, says, "The economic downturn scared us, as did the fact that so many people were losing their homes because of their mortgages.  Government grants were going down.  It made us realize that Theater for the New City must have a guaranteed home, since we are a home for so many emerging artists:  writers, directors, actors and theater companies."  Since the demise of the much-loved Charas El Bohillo Arts Center, TNC has become increasingly the cultural center for the East Village.

Crystal Field adds, "TNC lives frugally and is now debt-free.  At least we know now that they will never build another Wal-Mart on this site."

Elected representatives from TNC's district and neighboring districts are being invited.  These include Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Christine Quinn, City Councilpersons Rosie Mendez, Gale A. Brewer and Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.; Borough President Scott Stringer; US Congressional Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Nyadia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler; State Senator Daniel Squadron; Assembly members Brian Kavanagh, Daniel Goradnik, Sheldon Silver and Deborah Glick; State Senator Tom Duane and his presumed successor, Brad Hoylman; DCA Commissioner Kate Levin and NYSCA Chair Aby Rosen and Executive Director Lisa Robb.

The event's celebrities list, now in formation,  includes David Amram, Charles Busch, Vinie Burrows and The Love Show (performers of "Nutcracker: Rated R).

For more info about Theater for the New City, please visit