Triskelion Arts is the latest of several Williamsburg businesses to relocate to Greenpoint: next June, the dance arts organization will move out of its third-story warehouse space on North 11th Street and reopen at 106 Calyer Street.
Abby Bender began the company in 2000 with friends who were seeking rehearsal space outside of crowded Manhattan studios. Back then, the block wasn’t yet the heart of Manhattan East (Brooklyn Brewery was their only neighbor of note) and they paid $20,000 for an entire year of rent – or, just under $1,700 per month for 1,200 square feet. Today, Triskelion has flourished into a hub for creative performance with more than 4,000 square feet spread throughout five studios that are visited by about 40,000 people per year.
Bender and Mary Kuzma, whose furniture finishing business is also leaving the third floor, speculate that their studios will likely be replaced by the neighborhood’s now ubiquitous glass condos (Bedford + Bowery couldn’t reach the building owner, Berry Street Associates L.P., for comment). But in the meantime, they’ve struck a deal with their landlords to allow Triskelion to stay rent-free until the move to Greenpoint.
The new two-story space on Calyer Street is slightly smaller than their current home — at 4,200 versus 4,700 square feet — and will have four, instead of five, studios. But it has the advantage of being street-level, and will feature outdoor spaces and a slightly larger main theater. Triskelion is launching a capital campaign to raise $150,000 to begin its build out.
But what about those forthcoming residential towers just up the street? Wouldn’t they eventually have the same effect on Triskelion as development in Williamsburg?
“Waterfront development is not bad for us,” Bender countered. “At first, when all those condos [in North Williamsburg] had been built, I thought, ‘This is good, these people will be interested in our performances.’” That didn’t happen (the units weren’t exactly being filled by theater buffs) but she holds out hope that that the new additions to Greenpoint might attract interested traffic.
“We had a couple of options,” said Bender. “Go out to Bushwick and have a ton of space, but then we have to wait several years for people to follow us. It’s a risk we can’t take when we’re supporting artists and employees. People have come to rely on us.”
For that reason, simply closing down shop wasn’t an option, either. In addition to hosting and programing more than 300 performances a year, Triskelion’s rehearsal spaces are rented by 3,000 local dancers and stay open 24 hours. “There’s just not enough rehearsal space,” says Bender. “I definitely am nervous, but it’s also extremely exciting to make things better for ourselves and for all of our artists. The more secure we are, the more support we can get, the better off for everyone that we serve and help some of these fantastic artists, who are falling through the cracks, get their work out.”