Volume 17 • Issue 20 | October 08 - 14, 2004

Poetry readers in Poets House’s Spring St. home.

A little Bohemia for B.P.C.

By Ronda Kaysen

The Poets House, the largest poetry center and archive of its kind in the United States, is about to get a whole lot bigger. As part of the Batter Park City Authority’s efforts to provide the community with more amenities as it develops, Poets House will soon relocate from its Spring St. digs to a loftier location cattycorner to the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City.

The nonprofit archive of 45,000 volumes of poetry will occupy a 10,000 square foot space on the first two floors of what is now site 16/17, the last undeveloped waterfront site in Battery Park City. It will share the public space with a 12,000 square foot branch of the New York Public Library and a 4,000 square foot World Hunger Learning Center, an educational center about hunger. The Poets House will face the waterfront and all three educational centers will exit into Teardrop Park, which opened Sept. 30.

“This is a dream come true for us,” said Lee Briccetti, executive director of the Poets House. For the past 13 years, the center has leased a 4,600 square foot space on the second floor of a building on Spring and Crosby Sts. Before that, it had a rent-free space at the High School for the Humanities in Chelsea. The new site is twice as large, permanent and rent-free. “We’ve come a long way,” said Briccetti.

Poets House plans to double the size of its children’s room, which Briccetti describes as “charming.”

Founded in 1985 by Elizabeth Kray and former U.S. Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz – who “is in his 100th year of life and is determined to see this project completed,” said Briccetti – Poets House is one of only five of its kind worldwide. Free and open to the public, the library includes books, journals, chapbooks, audiotapes, videos and electronic media.

Poets House has a deep commitment to making poetry accessible to the community, said Briccetti. Its stacks are open to the public and it offers myriad classes, seminars and workshops for adults and children. “We can really do something that’s never been done before. We can reach out to the whole world,” she said of the new Battery Park City space.

The archive sees its new neighbor – the New York Public Library – as a boon to one of its current programs: Poetry in the Branches, a program to bring poetry to libraries across the country. “We can create a synergy with the library,” said Briccetti.

“This is an extraordinary group with an extraordinary mission,” said Timothy Carey, president and C.E.O. of the authority. Richard Schwartz, chairperson of the New York State Counsel on the Arts suggested Poets House as a possible institution for the available space because of its fiscal responsibility and cultural significance. “Poets House will bring the community an exciting and wonderful awareness of a magnificent art form,” Carey said.

The three public amenities will fill the first two floors of a Polshek Partnership — designed “green” residential tower. The 30-story condominium, developed by the Sheldrake Organization, Plaza Construction Corporation and R.W. Consultants will have more than 300 residential units. Bordered on the north by Murray Street, on the east by North End Avenue, on the south by Vesey St., and on the west by River Terrace, the horse shoe-shaped residential tower will sit between the Irish Hunger Memorial and Teardrop Park, which will flow into a courtyard in the new building.

With ground yet to break on the condominium project, no date has been set for Poets House’s relocation. In the meantime, wordsmiths can visit the vast poetry collection at the 72 Spring St. location.

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