World Trade Center Performing Arts Center Aims to Lead NYC’s Cultural Revitalization
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center is the last piece to the recovery and revitalization of the World Trade Center site after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It will also aid in New York’s pandemic recovery when it opens in 2023 – delayed because of COVID-19.
“The performing arts sector is the last to come back, but it’s coming back roaring,” said Leslie Koch, president of the Perelman Performing Arts Center.
On the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, Koch pointed out to Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso some parallels between the 9/11 and pandemic recovery efforts.
“The planning back in 2003 that resulted in the master plan said we need to have culture on the 16 acres because New York needs to not only memorialize what was lost here on 9/11 and rebuild the offices that were destroyed, but this site needs to be a living, breathing part of New York,” she said. “We’re that symbol again.”
She believes that people are suffering “creative loss” by working remotely because New York City offers a vibrant experience of arts and entertainment, which attracts many people to the city in the first place.
When the Perelman Performing Arts Center opens, it will be a public place where arts and entertainment intersect with New York’s restaurants and financial industry.
Koch describes it as the “living room of the World Trade Center” where it will host free performances on a small stage on the first floor and a variety of theater, dance, film, opera and more music upstairs.
“The Perelman Arts Center at the World Trade Center is a critical piece not just for the revitalization and return of Lower Manhattan, which is an office district and also a place where thousands of people live and millions of people visit, but also for New York broadly that New York is always investing again,” Koch said.
She sees culture as the vehicle to get New Yorkers to participate in the economic recovery.
Before leading the World Trade Center’s arts project beginning in 2019, Koch oversaw the redevelopment and rejuvenation of Governor’s Island from a military base to a park and thriving business and recreation center. She served as president and chief executive officer of the Trust for Governor’s Island from 2006-2016.
Connolly asked her what advice she has for young artists looking to make it to the big time. Koch responded by saying, “Follow your passion and know your numbers.” She noted that’s applicable to people in any industry.
“One of the great things about when artists follow our passion is that that’s something that the rest of us get to experience and enjoy,” she added.
The pandemic shut down impacted businesses and workers across the hospitality industry. Entertainers were among those who struggled to survive when performances were canceled. Koch told WCBS 880 many artists discovered new creative ways to reach audiences virtually.
“You put a performance on the screen, and all of a sudden, you have audience members in Tanzania, and Singapore, and Utah. New York is the capital of the arts for the world and I think that digital is helping make that even stronger,” she said.
Get an inside look at the development of the Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center and see how performances are helping the city emerge from the pandemic on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.