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Williamsburg Circus-Arts Space to Undergo $3.1M Renovation

By Serena Dai | August 27, 2015 10:38am
 STREB's Lab for Action Mechanics received $3.1 million in city funding to renovate its space.
STREB Lab for Action Mechanics
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WILLIAMSBURG — A longtime circus and performance-arts space is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover that will make the venue more visible and inviting to would-be acrobats.

STREB Lab for Action Mechanics, a circus-arts performance space and school at 51 North First St., finished fundraising for a $3.1 million renovation last week with the help of $250,000 from Borough President Eric Adams' office.

The organization has been located in a former Williamsburg loading facility for the Old Dutch Mustard Company since 2003.

While the industrial space has high ceilings and fits the needs of trapeze artists, its garage-door facade means that even people who live in the neighborhood often express surprise that STREB operates there, said the group's co-managing directors, Susan Meyers and Cathy Einhorn.

The renovation includes the addition of a glass facade, allowing passersby to see into the space even when the garage door is down in the winter, they noted.

"It's about ending any boundaries between entering our building and the street," Einhorn said. "You see people flying on a trapeze from down by the river. That sort of accessibility is really central to who we are as an organization."

Funding for the renovation has trickled in over the past several years, coming from Adams, Councilman Stephen Levin and the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Other planned upgrades include changes to the lobby, which will feature better lighting and improved seating to make the space more inviting to the public, the directors said.

Public access is important to the organizatoin, Einhorn and Meyers said.

Classes at STREB — which range from founder Elizabeth Streb's POPACTION to parkour — cost money, but the organization regularly partners with public schools and nonprofits like the St. Nicks Alliance to fundraise and offer free sessions.

Children make up about two-thirds of the students in the school, Meyers and Einhorn said.

STREB also grants scholarships to some students and hosts performances year-round in the space, they added.

"When you come in and wear your T-shirt and sweatpants, all that is important is that you want to participate, that you want to be part of the action," Meyers said. "We actively reach out to different communities and welcome them here."