St. Ann's Warehouse, the esteemed Brooklyn theater whose unique space has attracted acting troupes from across the world, may be homeless by next year.
After learning that their current location, at 38 Water Street in DUMBO, would be redeveloped into condos and a middle school, St. Ann's made an impressive proposal to the National Park Service to take over the 25,000 square foot, roofless (and barely used) Tobacco Warehouse across the street.
But after the NPS gave St. Ann's the go-ahead for the move in April, a trio of community organizations (the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Fulton Ferry Landing Association and the New York Landmarks Conservancy) filed suit in court, claiming the NPS illegally took the Tobacco Warehouse out of the protected boundaries of Empire Fulton Ferry State Park, therefore nullifying their agreement with St. Ann's. A federal judge agreed, ruling that St. Ann's could not move into the Tobacco Warehouse after all.
And now, St. Ann's really has nowhere to go. The New York Times reports that St. Ann’s, without a Plan B, will join the likes of the New York City Opera and the theater company Performance Space 122, in facing a nomadic future until a permanent site can be found or a new space built, both processes that could take years.
St. Ann's director Susan Feldman tells the Times:
When we won approval to move into the Tobacco Warehouse, you had a few people in Brooklyn who felt such defeat and anger that they are now fighting all-out to keep this space as a ruin, an urban ruin.
It leaves us maybe having to leave Dumbo. Perhaps even leaving Brooklyn. None of us want that, but the theater we do at St. Ann’s doesn’t easily fit into pre-existing spaces that we’ve seen, and we want to continue to do that work.
And Jim Walden, lawyer for the community groups whose lawsuit effectively put St. Ann's on the street, offered a different perspective:
We don’t think it’s a good idea for governments to just give away national landmarks to organizations that they like, if those are good organizations, because eventually there will be a person in charge who is giving landmarks to an organization that you don’t like. What you need is the same standardized process that has integrity and is followed in all decisions like this.
The Tobacco Warehouse, sitting just North of the Brooklyn Bridge, was built in the 1870s as a tobacco customs inspection center, and saved from demolition in 1998, according to Brroklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.