The old stone-and-cast-iron staircases and some original walls will survive, according to architectural plans for the towers obtained by the AP.
What’s left inside is just a shadow of the bustling labyrinth of corridors, stairways and studios where modern American dance took its first steps, created by choreographers like George Balanchine and Martha Graham.
Debris now spills down a stairway leading to a rooftop studio. “SAVE” is scrawled on a wall in red, with a line to guide workers when they chop off a ceiling and skylight built in the 1890s.
In 1960, developers wanted to tear down the entire Carnegie Hall building to construct a high-rise on the site. But violinist Isaac Stern led a successful public campaign against demolition and the city bought the property for $5 million, creating the Carnegie Hall Corp. to run it.
“It’s Weill’s money, but it’s our history _ and this is the endgame here,” said actor Billy Lyons, 29, assistant to acting coach Wynn Handman, who had worked from a Carnegie studio since the early 1980s, training actors including Denzel Washington, Mira Sorvino and Michael Douglas.
The towers will be rebuilt as new music education spaces and classrooms, archives and administrative offices for the Carnegie Hall staff.
“They’re erasing every piece of our cultural history, and it’s not all for the children,” said Lyons. “It’s for Sandy Weill events.”
Weill and his wife, Joan, have pledged $25 million toward the project _ which includes a lavish rooftop terrace with a nearby dining area accessible by a glass elevator _ to be named after the couple, according to a confidential legal document obtained by the AP. It’s signed by Weill, his wife and Gillinson.
The rooftop plans in particular have drawn strong opposition. Preservation advocate Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City told the Landmarks Restoration Commission last year that the towers’ roofscape “should be sacrosanct under the landmarks law.”
But Carnegie Hall Corp. won commission approval for plans that preserve little inside the two structures. The landmarks commissioners are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ex-officio member of Carnegie’s board. The city and the state have committed $50 million in taxpayer money for the project, with another $56 million coming from a Carnegie Hall bond sale.
“The main motivation is to create a music education center where we can work with schoolchildren and talented artists,” Gillinson told the AP. He said the 60,000 square feet of studios will now be available for programs run by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education and The Juilliard School. They will teach music to urban children and, by computer and satellite, to youngsters around the globe.
“This will benefit tens of thousands of people and upset a small number of people, a very small number of people,” Gillinson said. “Of course I’m sorry, and of course I’m upset, and of course we’ve looked after the people.”
Carnegie Hall: http://www.carnegiehall.com