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Nonprofit Jazz 'Listening Room' to Leave Hudson Street After 17 Years

By Andrea Swalec | June 13, 2012 4:31pm | Updated on June 13, 2012 5:04pm

HUDSON SQUARE — For nearly two decades, The Jazz Gallery in Hudson Square has offered what its executive director called an "unusual" concert-going experience. 

The 290 Hudson St. nonprofit's office doubles as the "green room" for acts waiting to take the stage, tickets cost as little as $10 each and jazz fans of a certain age say its shows remind them of seeing bands in city lofts in the 1970s. 

"It's this feeling that we're all hanging out together here," the Gallery's executive director, Deborah Steinglass, said in an interview Tuesday. 

But after 17 years of hosting intimate jazz performances, the 2,000-square-foot "listening room" located near the entrance of the Holland Tunnel will leave at the end of this year to make way for residential development, Steinglass said. 

The city has approved building owner Hudson-Spring Partners, L.P.'s request to convert the second through sixth floors of the L-shaped building at 290 Hudson St./286 Spring St. from commercial to residential use, city records show. The first floor is used by the members-only club Parlor New York and has not been rezoned. 

Hudson-Spring Partners, L.P. did not immediate respond to an inquiry about the timing of the conversion.

The Gallery, which musician Roy Hargrove and his manager Dale Fitzgerald founded in 1995, is seeking a new location for the club and will try to raise as much as $250,000 for moving and operational expenses with the help of a star-studded benefit concert Wednesday night. 

Musicians Vijay Iyer, Roy Hargrove, Ravi Coltrane, Claudia Acuña and others will perform at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem Wednesday at an event that beings at 6:30 p.m. 

Tickets start at $45 for admission to only the concert for people under age 30 and $100 for the general public. 

The Gallery has brought together some of the biggest names in the jazz world to try to rally support for what they do, Steinglass said. 

"The power of these musicians together will be incredible," she said. 

Steinglass, a classical pianist and longtime arts administrator, said musicians tell her the Gallery gives them space to take risks and explore their craft. 

One regular performer there told her about a recent experience playing at a "commercial, more mainstream venue," she said. 

"After he played, they told him, 'The music was really great but you'll probably never play here again — you didn't bring in a big enough crowd,'" she said. 

"The difference in what we do here at the Gallery is we focus in on our mission, not the numbers," Steinglass said. "We've always felt that we did something different from almost any other place in New York City"

The club — which is funded by the city Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts and others — is seeking to relocate to a larger "but still intimate" space on the west side of Downtown Manhattan, according to an online posting about its search for new space. 

The Gallery wants 4,000 square feet, including a 100-seat performance venue, office space and two practice rooms, the listing says. 

It's important that the Gallery stay on the west side "jazz trail" so it can hold its place on the radar of jazz fans and musicians. 

Performers often play second sets at the Gallery after playing earlier shows in the Village, Steinglass said. 

"We're going to make sure we continue," she added. 

The large-scale rezoning of Hudson Square, spearheaded by Trinity Real Estate, to allow more residential development will dramatically alter the character of the neighborhood and likely take its toll on groups that have benefited from rent costs lower than those in adjacent neighborhoods, Steinglass said. 

"Small arts and culture organizations are going to get pushed out of this neighborhood," she said.