Volume 21, Number 23 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Oct. 17 - 23, 2008
Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel
92YTribeca’s bar is open for shows and events and its cafe is opening this week.
The kids are alright, so Tribeca Y goes for connections w/20-somethings
By Julie Shapiro
This isn’t your Aunt Hilde’s community center.
The 92YTribeca has no membership fee, no swimming pool and no chunky brochure listing all the programs. The center may see a few strollers and gray heads, but the target audience will be 20-somethings who get information from their BlackBerries, not from brochures.
“A community center for those folks is not going to look like a community center for Aunt Hilde,” said Beverly Greenfield, 45, public relations director, while giving Downtown Express a tour.
The sun-drenched art gallery, gourmet sustainable cafe and mirrored bar at 200 Hudson St. are all designed to make people in their 20s and 30s feel at home.
92YTribeca, which has had a few preview events since this spring, will open fully Oct. 18 as an offshoot of the 92nd Street Y’s main facility on the Upper East Side. The 15,800-square-foot arts and entertainment venue includes a main stage with seating for up to 250 people.
Greenfield hopes the nightly programs in theater, film, music and comedy attract a population that community centers often leave behind: those who have graduated college but don’t yet have their own families or children. 92YTribeca will kick off the programming with 18 Nights of Inspiration spaced over the next two months (the letters that form the number 18 in Hebrew also signify “chai,” or “life”). Before the end of the year, Ira Glass, Lou Reed, David Schwimmer and the cast of “Wicked” will all pay a visit to the Tribeca center.
The opening night will begin a lighthearted return-to-summer-camp series with the screening of “Wet Hot American Summer.” Michael Showalter, co-writer and star, will introduce the film while attendees snack on s’mores and spiked bug juice.
“This is not just going to be an indie film place,” said Rachel Chanoff, 92YTribeca’s film curator. “It’s not going to be an all eat-your-vegetables kind of place…. We want it to just be super fun.”
Chanoff wants to use the 72-seat screening room to show everything from never-before-seen works-in-progress to new twists on old classics. She’s planning an anime festival, a series of Paul Newman’s best films and a monthly social activism documentary. The film events run four to five nights a week and nearly every one features a Q&A with an actor or director from the film.
The opening of 92YTribeca is both a reincarnation and an end of Makor, the program for 20-somethings that the 92nd Street Y previously ran on the Upper West Side. The program is gaining a new venue and renewed attention in moving to Tribeca, but it is losing its name, which means “source” in Hebrew. The name did poorly in focus groups, Greenfield said.
The 92nd Street Y had been eyeing Lower Manhattan on and off for quite some time, working with Community Board 1 at one point and subsequently vying for a spot in the World Trade Center after 9/11.
While 92YTribeca is a bit of a mouthful, the staff has not yet found a suitable nickname. The staff just calls the center “Tribeca,” but that won’t work outside of their office. Greenfield demurred at Tribeca Y saying the YMCA could build a Tribeca branch, creating a conflict. She said she expects the center’s clientele to coin a better nickname soon.
That clientele will come to the center looking for connection, Greenfield said. Kostow Greenwood Architects designed a central lounge in addition to a cafe, and people who show up for one event will be encouraged to stick around for another. 92YTribeca will also sponsor community service programs that double as mixers.
With its young audience in mind, 92YTribeca is sticking to posters, online advertising and YouTube to spread the word on upcoming programs. The center was behind “Jewno,” the parody of the “Juno” trailer by Stephen J. Levinson that was a hit success on YouTube. “Jewno” was part of 92YTribeca’s preview event last spring: The Shushan Channel, a retelling of the story of Purim featuring writers from the “Daily Show” and “The Simpsons.” Now the makers of “Jewno” are working on new shorts to bring that audience back.
In a nod to the 92nd Street Y’s Jewish roots, 92YTribeca held High Holiday services and plans to hold Friday-night Shabbat dinners with themes ranging from hip-hop to Israeli food. But most of the center’s programs will be secular, and, as at the 92nd Street Y, all programs are open to everyone.
Chanoff, the film curator, sees the center’s arts programs as serving not just the audience but also the artists themselves.
“We want it to be a platform not only to share their work, but to get feedback from the audience and to take risks,” Chanoff said. “It’ll be like an incubator for them.”
Many of the big names Chanoff has booked for film events in the next few months earned their fame outside of the field of film. Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, based in Tribeca, will introduce his basketball documentary “Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot” on Oct. 23. The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, who performed at the spring preview, and David Kaplan will discuss their work-in-progress, “7 to the Palace,” on Nov. 19.
The 92nd Street Y’s expansion to Tribeca follows a trend of young professionals moving Downtown and to nearby Williamsburg and Hoboken, Greenfield said. Tribeca, though, is better known for a different population: families.
“We’re very aware of the fact there are young families in Tribeca, but our sense is that they are already being served by organizations down there,” Greenfield said. “We’re trying to tap into things that are not being served.”
92YTribeca will still offer some family-oriented programming: On Sundays, they will hold a B.Y.O.K. (Bring Your Own Kid) brunch with live music in what Greenfield describes as a nightclub atmosphere with room for kids to run around.
92YTribeca is also offering a range of daytime programming geared toward seniors and local workers, including business breakfasts, lunchtime lectures on retiring and anti-aging treatments and classes in yoga, photography, cartooning and writing.
The nighttime programs rarely top $15, while the daytime programs start at $16 for hour-long talks and run up to $50 for a lunch poker workshop for women.
Some people might wander into the center just for the food. The cafe will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with sandwiches and salads in the $7 range and pescaterian entrees for about $15. The menu offers traditional comfort foods with a twist, like wasabi deviled eggs topped with raw tuna, a panini grilled cheese with caramelized onion-fig jam on seven-grain bread and Belgian chocolate egg creams. Many of the ingredients are locally grown.
The cafe will be a big change for 92YTribeca’s block of Hudson St. just south of Canal St., an industrial-looking area that feels more like Hudson Square than Tribeca. Greenfield expects the cafe to become a popular lunch spot, as there are few options in the immediate area, and she plans to hold free open mic nights there as well.
The cafe will open with the rest of 92YTribeca (212-601-1000, 92y.org/92yTribeca) on Sat., Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. It will then be open regularly Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight.