The stage in the auditorium of Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, a multigenerational cultural hub on West 65th Street, will again hold performances after more than two years of languishing in a state of disrepair. The community center, which mostly serves tenants of the nearby Amsterdam Houses public housing complex, received a $50,000 donation from Lowe’s to restore a moldy and unstable platform into a new black hardwood floor of professional performance venue quality.
With a working stage once again in place, the center hopes to begin a community arts program that will bring artists and shows to the neighborhood for free. “This is a neighborhood where lots of artists live but they don’t have a place to perform, so this could become an incredible gathering place for the arts,” said Susan Matloff-Nieves, executive director of Lincoln Square.
She’s hoping to turn the auditorium into a performance venue that showcases different types of art, music and dance for a community that would often be hard pressed to pay for shows at even neighboring Lincoln Center, just two blocks away and home to the Metropolitan Opera, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and The Juilliard School.
“Lincoln Center is a hub of music and theater and activity and there’s a tremendous economic divide between those that go to Lincoln Center and right across the street, where the median income is $25,000 and below,” said Stephan Russo, director of the Goddard Riverside Center, the parent company of Lincoln Square. “So the goal would be able to bring quality arts program into the center and make them available and accessible.”
What makes the venue unique is the versatility of the space: there are two openings to the stage, one into an auditorium, and the other to the outside. In that way, the house will be able to host both indoor and outdoor performances.
Last June, Lincoln Square merged with Goddard Riverside, a community center on Columbus Avenue, in an effort to continue getting the resources and funding needed to run its programs. Goddard Riverside has a much larger budget and community base than Lincoln Square so the merger was able to provide the smaller center with the support needed to continue and build upon its existing programs. Lincoln Square has been serving residents in the community for about 60 years and is used regularly by about 1,000 residents. Programs there are for participants under 25 years of age or over 65 and include a senior center that provides a daily hot lunch, a daycare program and a series of afterschool extracurricular classes, all for little to no cost.
Many in the community have lived at the complex for decades, helping to establish strong connections among neighbors and fellow tenants. Patricia Ryan, president of the tenant association at the Amsterdam Addition, has lived at the development her whole life and knows almost everybody who lives in the development. She’s watched Lincoln Square grow and support her fellow seniors with free programs and a gathering space. She’s looking forward to the center’s newest addition. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said of the new stage and what it promises. “What I’d like to do personally is just get up there and say ‘Ahhh’, just feel the floor, I need to do that to know that we are back, it’s back,” she said.