Monday, February 5, 2018

69 West 14th

Neil Greenberg, Professor of Choreography at the New School, recently wrote on his Facebook page: "Another dance studio bites the dust--a location with a lot of history." The dance studio was PMT, located on the third floor of 69 West 14th Street at 6th Avenue, above Sol Moscot's.

Pavan Thimmaiah, director of the studio, tells me the building was bought by Extell -- and it will likely be demolished.

Tax photo (1940s?)

On the history there, Neil writes:

"From 1959 - 1963 The Living Theatre, directed by Judith Malina and Julian Beck, occupied floors two and three. Merce Cunningham had his dance studio on the top floor, which is where Robert Dunn taught the composition classes that launched the Judson Dance Theater. In 1977 Peter Saul, who once danced in Merce’s company, taught ballet classes in this studio. I’ve taught here, for The New School, since 2010, and have rehearsed my work here as well. Goodbye PMT Dance Studio. Goodbye this potent history. Soon to be gone, but not forgotten."

photo: Neil Greenberg

One of the studios in this building was the site of the first post-Stonewall gay and lesbian dance. That was 1970 and the dance was held by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) at a place called Alternate U.

From Come Out!, the Gay Liberation Front’s official newspaper, via Box Turtle

In a review of the dance in the Come Out! newspaper, Kathy Braun wrote, "The purposes which we set out for the dances were, to provide an alternative to the exploitive gay bars in the city, to raise money for a GLF Community Center, and to politicize the homosexuals hanging around this town."

She noted, "The records played were exciting, danceable, and at the right volume. My current favorite song is 'And the World will be a Better Place'... The dancing was of the usual superlative quality. Them queers can sure shake a leg... 600 people, music, lights, costumes, kissing, seductions, promises made, truths explored, conflicts, politics. Hit it, sisters & brothers."

GLF members preparing for a GLF dance at Alternate U, 1970. Photo by Diana Davies, via NYCLGBTSites.

The Gay Liberation Front formed in July 1969 and used Alternate U. as the location for many of its meetings and social events. Soon after Stonewall, a flyer for Alternate U. read: "Do you think homosexuals are revolting? You bet your sweet ass we are. We're going to make a place for ourselves in the revolutionary movement. We challenge the myths that are screwing up this society."

reports that "Alternate U. was a free counterculture school and leftist political organizing center in Greenwich Village, founded around 1966 by Tom Wodetski. It had several classrooms in a former dance studio on the second floor of 69 West 14th Street."

Gay night at Alternate U. included classes on: "medical, legal, demonstration, gay squatters, racism, gay history and literature, sexism, exploration of roles and identity, and Marxism and political workshop."

In addition, "Protests were organized here against politicians and The Village Voice (which refused to print the word 'gay' in ads), and meetings were held here in the aftermath of the Snake Pit raid in March 1970."

GLF meeting at Alternate U, 1970. Photo by Diana Davies, via NYCLGBTSites.

PMT Dance Studio will be moving to a new space. On their Facebook page, they wrote, "It's the end of an era. January 31st will be the last day 69 West 14th Street will be open. Afterwards, preparations to demo the building and create new developments, reportedly luxury high rises, will be underway."

Richard, the reader who tipped me off to the closure of PMT, writes, "Curious how far whatever's going to get built is going to go, since several of the storefronts north of this building on Sixth Avenue are vacant -- perhaps extending to Lester Bangs' former abode" at 542 Sixth Avenue.

Indeed it looks like Sol Moscot is the only business left open in the building--and in the three buildings to the north. Nine storefronts have been shuttered here. That's nine businesses, plus those upstairs, put out. And who knows what happened to the residential tenants in the smaller buildings.

What if we had commercial rent control once again? Would buildings like these be protected by protecting their small businesses?

Meanwhile, across the street, another building is coming down for another luxury tower. 101 West 14th was built in 1953 as the Greenwich Savings Bank. It was soon decorated with a large mural by the artist Julien Binford. After an effort to save the mural, it has been removed and put into storage--making way for the wrecking ball and the luxury condos.


Scout said...

As I recall, a gay massage group called Celebrate Touch used to meet regularly in this space as well in the 90s and early 2000s. I attended several times, and it was always great fun.

sarah in brooklyn said...

What will you write about when everything has vanished?

Timothy said...

When I was in high school, there was a pizza place at the corner where Moscot's is, D'Allia Azurra was its name, IIRC.

Steve said...

Before Sol Moscot, there was a Blimpie's sandwich shop in this location. I wasn't aware of the building's specific gay-related history, however.

An awful lot of buildings have been "going," and you can't help wondering when there'll be a glut of luxury condominiums, etc., and this can all finally stop -- at least for a breather!