Rent Deal Saves Downtown Dance Studio

By Julie Shapiro on June 1, 2012 7:55am 

A ballet class at Dance New Amsterdam, a 28-year-old nonprofit that was in danger of closing before reaching a rent deal in May 2012.
A ballet class at Dance New Amsterdam, a 28-year-old nonprofit that was in danger of closing before reaching a rent deal in May 2012.
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Mark Stephen Kornbluth

TRIBECA — Dance New Amsterdam isn't going anywhere.

The Downtown dance studio, which has been living under the threat of eviction for the past three years, has reached a deal with its landlord to reduce its rent and signed a new 10-year lease two weeks ago, the studio's leader said.   

"We feel much better, and we see the future looking brighter," said Kate Peila, the studio's executive and artistic director.

The deal will save Dance New Amsterdam at least $4 million over the next 10 years, allowing the studio to keep its 25,000-square-foot space at 280 Broadway, the landmarked Sun Building, Peila said.

After years of negotiations assisted by elected officials including State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Dance New Amsterdam finally came to an agreement with Fram Realty, which leases the city-owned space to the studio.

The deal restructures Dance New Amsterdam's hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, mitigates rent increases that would have skyrocketed to nearly $90,000 a month by 2020 and reduces the amount of property taxes the studio must pay, Peila said. She declined to provide the specifics of the deal.

Peila, Squadron and other local officials planned to announce the agreement at a press conference on Friday.

Ross Moskowitz, a lawyer representing Fram Realty, said in a statement that the real estate firm is pleased with the outcome.

"Our client came to the table looking for solutions and together, we found an arrangement that will allow [Dance New Amsterdam] to remain a key ingredient within Lower Manhattan’s cultural community," Moskowitz said.

Dance New Amsterdam, a 28-year-old nonprofit, moved Downtown in 2006 after renting the 280 Broadway space and building a 130-seat theater, six studios and two galleries using federal post-9/11 funding.

But delays in the construction and other issues led the studio to fall behind in its rent, which had reached an astronomical $68,945 per month by 2010.

The studio's new 10-year lease, with reduced rent, will allow Dance New Amsterdam to stop focusing on its past and start planning for the future, Peila said.

She has no shortage of ideas, from a mentoring program that supports entrepreneurial dancers to a partnership with the Bollywood dance and film industry. At its core, the studio will continue to provide affordable classes and rehearsal space for young dancers, who often have trouble finding a spot in the city's dwindling number of professional dance companies.

Peila also plans to tap into a new market of local workers, expanding classes that teach people to sit more comfortably in front of a computer and to stretch while still wearing their office clothes.

And some changes could be on the way to the studio's physical space as well, including a new library and resource center in the lobby, along with a possible health-food cart, Peila said.

Peila sees the new rent deal as a necessary step toward those future plans, but not the final one. Now that the studio is definitely staying open, Peila said she must focus on raising money to meet the studio's expenses, which are still significant.

This year alone, Dance New Amsterdam will spend $350,000 repairing floors, bathrooms and ventilation systems and maintaining high-tech equipment, Peila said.

"It feels good," she said of the deal, "but we have a lot more to go."

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