There was a closing sale today at Frank’s Wine and Liquor store on 46 Union Square East, one of four stores forced to leave the historic Tammany Hall Building on the brink of a massive renovation. Already shuttered are Trevi Deli, a smoke shop, and a newsstand.
The big moving vans came Friday to clear out Tammany Hall’s most prominent tenant, The Union Square Theatre around the corner from Park Avenue South at 100 East 17th Street. Within a matter of hours, it was a ghost building, emptied of all vestiges of the Tony-Award winning hit comedy, 39 Steps, which had played on Broadway and other venues for 1,135 performances starting in 2008.
The show ended on January 3 after only 317 performances at the theater, which will soon be demolished altogether to make way for an expanded retail development in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
“We stripped everything down,” said a worker for Mind the Gap, a theatrical services company in Sunset Park. By everything, he meant curtains, rods, costumes, lighting, all the things that brought the 499-seat theater to life for audiences. He said his company got the word to move a couple of weeks ago, and began packing up and clearing out the space last Monday.
“It’s so sad,” said a woman who worked on the production. She said that 39 Steps producer Douglas Denoff, who was unavailable for an interview, was “blindsided” when Liberty Theatres, LLC, which owns the neo-gothic Tammany Hall, gave him notice to vacate the building. His production had only been there since April 1.
One customer at Frank’s liquor store for its closing sale Friday was Margaret Cotter, owner of the East Village-based Liberty Theatres. Asked about her arrangement with Denoff, she said, “Douglas Denoff and I had a deal.” She said she gave him notice last summer and also observed that her plans to renovate Tammany Hall, once a symbol of New York’s political corruption, had been in the news for years as she sought clearances for the makeover from the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission and other city agencies, including Community Board 5 and the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Cotter also observed that the New York Film Academy, the first tenant to leave the building in the fall after 23 years on the premises, knew of her plans and had long since found an alternate site on Lower Broadway.
Michael Buckley, Cotter’s partner and the development’s rep, told us that all tenants were given “proper notification,” adding: “We’re interested in being good neighbors. I can understand why some [tenants] might be disappointed, but in the final analysis they had specific lease agreements and everybody operated on a month-to-month lease.”
Buckley said construction could begin in February or the next month and could extend for 18 to 30 months. “This is a landmark building with a delicate existing structure. We’re not a rush.” He declined to attached a dollar amount to the project, but noted, “it’s a sizable investment.”