Volume 20, Number 45 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MARCH 21 - 27, 2008

Building ain’t no disco, but could get Talking art

David Byrne, former bandleader of the Talking Heads, has written music for the Battery Maritime Building.

Byrne’s acoustic sculpture installation is entitled “Playing the Building” and could open in late May as part of the River to River Festival.

Creative Time, a non-profit organization that commissions public art projects, is funding the $100,000 installation, and Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly to support the project. The city’s Economic Development Corporation, which controls the Maritime Building, is currently helping Creative Time get the necessary approvals.

“Playing the Building” will consist of an antique organ, placed on the second floor, which produces rumbling and humming sounds.

The exterior of the Beaux-Arts ferry building at the tip of Manhattan has been renovated for $60 million in 2005, and a four-story glass hotel addition is being planned.

Harold Reed, chairperson of Arts and Entertainment Task Force at C.B.1, ensured that the installation would be safe.

“No harm will be done to the building,” Reed said in a telephone interview, explaining that all the wiring and mechanics will be visible.

The last surviving East River Terminal must be used as a public space, and Reed was excited about David Byrne’s idea.

“Just being in the building is unique,” Reed said, “and to do something special with it is a marvelous experience.”

Reed said “Playing the Building” is expected to open to the public from May 30 through Labor Day.

Although the plan to add the hotel atop Battery Maritime Building has received Landmarks approval, the construction beginning is still unclear because the developers have not secured all of the financing and will then have to proceed through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

— Sebastian Kahnert



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