Lehman College kicked off major renovations of its performing arts center amid fanfare.
The college, part of the City University of New York, held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday, November 28 to mark the start of a $15.4 million renovation and addition to the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts.
Lehman Center is the borough’s answer to Lincoln Center in Manhattan, a concert and performance hall with 2,310 seats that over the next 18 months will see a major overhaul.
The scope of the work includes construction that will add an additional 5,600 square feet of space that includes a box office encased in a glass façade, as well as new rest rooms and administrative offices.
The renovations also include modifications to the existing lobby, as well as bringing the 37-year-old building up to Americans with Disability Act standards.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a Lehman College graduate who allocated $850,000 to the project, said at the ceremonial groundbreaking that he was thankful for the affordable education that he received at the college and said that the work that Lehman does is important in spreading the word about the borough.
“When you look at arts – music, song and dance – that is part of the DNA as who we are as the ‘Boogie Down Bronx,’” said Diaz in his remarks. “To be able to fund this is the easy part because you are an institution that is an ambassador that everything that we represent as a borough.”
The borough president said that Lehman Center for the Performing Arts provides an affordable amenity to Bronxites and to people from beyond the borough’s borders.
He added that the center is able to highlight a myriad of music including hip-hop, salsa, doo-wop and choral music.
Eva Bornstein, Lehman Center executive director, said the renovations, which she hopes will also include new seating, would make the concert-going experience even more memorable.
“We want to enhance their experience while going to the concerts,” said Bornstein of concertgoers. “A performing arts center is a gathering of a community, so you want to make it as pleasant and memorable for them as you possibly can.”
José Luis Cruz, Lehman College’s president, said that first and foremost, one goal is to make the building more accessible in terms of ADA compliance.
The new enhanced space should include a more welcoming lobby that can better accommodate intermission crowds, said Cruz, adding that 150,000 people use the center every year.
“For years the space has served as a venue for some of the world’s best known performing artists,” said Cruz. “I am thrilled that one of the borough’s greatest treasures will undergo this important makeover and thank all who have provided funding for this project.”
A mixture of sources including the governor’s and borough president’s offices, and the Bronx Delegation of the NYC City Council and NYS legislature provided funding.
Elected officials attending the ceremony included Diaz, Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, Assemblyman José Rivera and Councilman Andrew Cohen.