St. Ann's Warehouse, the multi-disciplinary theater group and performance space, affirmed this week that it would be leaving its 38 Water St. home in Dumbo after recent court rulings made it crystal clear that the theater would not be permitted to construct a new home in the ruins of a mid-19th century tobacco warehouse near Brooklyn Bridge Park.
"The ruling creates continuing uncertainty, which is an enemy to the project," wrote the artistic director of St. Ann's, Susan Feldman, in a letter to supporters. "We must devote our attention now to securing a future home elsewhere. We are actively looking at alternative spaces and have identified options we are eagerly pursuing."
Last Tuesday's ruling by the federal district judge Eric Vitaliano declared void actions the U.S. National Park Service made in 2008 that redrew park boundaries to allow St. Ann's to move into the Tobacco Warehouse. The plaintiffs in the suit, which included preservation groups like the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, accused the Park Service of illegally conspiring to give the property to St. Ann's without going through the proper public review processes.
In her letter to supporters, Feldman lashed out against the BHA.
"There are no winners with this legal decision," she wrote. "Many tears have been shed. Particularly over the callousness of the neighborhood and preservation organizations that filed the suit and then turned a blind eye to the collateral damage it has caused -- to St. Ann’s Warehouse; to our Dumbo neighborhood, which we will have to leave; to the Park and to the future preservation of the Tobacco Warehouse and Empire Stores."
St. Ann's and the National Park Service can still go through a process called "conversion," in which a parkland of equal size and usefulness could be created for the theater group in place of the Tobacco Warehouse. However, Feldman said that St. Ann's can't afford to rely on an uncertain, lengthy legal process since it needs to vacate its current space in one year. 39 Water St. is slated for demolition and development next year by its owner, the Brooklyn real-estate mogul David Walentas.
"We've always had the highest regard for St. Ann's — this isn't about them," said Peg Breen, President of the Landmarks Conservancy, when asked about Feldman's recent comments. "City, state, and federal government ignored really clear and really important federal preservation laws. The city really created this situation. If they had followed the laws in the first place, St. Ann's might be well on their way to building their new space by now."
Before they go anywhere, St. Ann's will be presenting a final season of programs from October 2011 to May 2012. One of the first and biggest events of the season will be a so-called "multimedia extravaganza" from the Creator's Project. The show will feature a "psycho-opera" written by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O and directed by the writer, filmmaker and musician Adam Rapp.