Update on AEG & Friends of the Loew’s

Just a brief expansion on what happened yesterday.  The JCRA Board did as Mayor Fulop wants and authorized negotiating two contracts: one for the renovation of the Loew’s by one company; and another contract for the operation of the Theatre by a for-profit consortium led by AEG.  But, as the JCRA Board stressed, the contracts are not written yet.  And as FOL pointed out at the meeting, since our legal defense of our lease is still ongoing, to do so would be at best premature.

Ironically, the presentations made at the meeting in an attempt to bolster the argument for the contracts Fulop wants actually validated much of what FOL has been saying:

The team that wants the contract for renovating the Loew’s made it very clear that fire and building code repairs and new air conditioning are among the most important issues that must be taken care of before programming at the Loew’s can increase.  And that’s exactly what FOL  said, and the City agreed with 10 years ago, and those are the projects the City is obligated to FOL to find funding for – but has not.

The construction team also talked about a host of things they proposed to do that sound very familiar:

Compare old photos to present-day conditions to determine how to restore  – Done by Friends of the Loew’s.

Carry out paint analysis to determine original colors  – Done by Friends of the Loew’s.

Repaint walls in original colors  – The walls under the balcony are already done by the Friends of the Loew’s.

Clean oxidation off of the gilded leaf surface  –  This project is underway currently by Friends of the Loew’s.

Try to figure out how to improve & ease stage load in  –  Friends of the Loew’s has already drafted the plans, and has taken the first step to get the project underway.

Try to figure out how to install additional restrooms  – The Friends of the Loew’s has already planned this project.

Plan for stage technical upgrades  –  That’s done, and FOL is well underway at carrying the project out.

The fact is, FOL and the Princeton-based architectural firm we work with have been grappling with problems, and planning and carrying our repairs and upgrades to the Loew’s for years.  But for two decades, the City’s message to FOL has been that it wants to spend as little as possible on the Loew’s — and the City hasn’t even provided the relatively small amount of money it’s promised to make those most basic repairs.  So FOL has been forced to go about planning and carrying out renovations incrementally, with a lot of volunteer labor.

Even the guy from the construction team at the JCRA meeting admitted that his company will only be able to do all the great things he was talking about (a lot of which FOL has already started) if a great deal of money is made available from the City.

And speaking of money, one of the only things in the last ten years that the City actually did find some money for in support of the Loew’s was a comprehensive Historic Structures Report compiled by FOL’s architect, working with specialized consultants and our own professional volunteers.  It details pretty much everything – and more – that was talked about at the JCRA meeting.  There’s no need for the City to spend more money to re-do what’s already been done.

As to the contract with AEG – their representative made it clear they can bring pop concerts into the Loew’s once the Theatre has been renovated more.   We’ve always said that commercial companies like AEG are the sources that most arts centers work with to bring in major commercial concerts.  There’s also Bowery Presents and Live Nation.  But arts center do much more in addition to their kind of programming – and some of the income from the commercial programming should help support the broader operation.  That’s why the Mayor’s approach is backwards.  And the only reason why FOL hasn’t, so far, been able to work with these promoters to bring more concerts into the Loew’s is the need  for more renovations to the Theatre – the same thing AEG would need if they were ever to try to run the Loew’s.  And for the record, AEG indicated that should FOL prevail in our case, they will work with us when the Theatre is renovated.