ABC No Rio

ABC No Rio Scheduled for Demolition and Rebuilding

Colin Moynihan reports in the New York Times that the Lower East Side art space ABC No Rio will be moving out of its current location on Rivington Street, as the building is scheduled to be demolished sometime before the fall due to its crumbling infrastructure. Started by artists and activists in 1980, their operations will be moved out by the end of June to make way for an environmentally conscious new structure that will then house ABC No Rio after its completion.

The center’s beginnings are rooted in the organization of the “Real Estate Show” in 1979, put together by members of a group called Collaborative Projects after they broke into an empty city-owned storefront on Delancey Street to install the exhibition. The same artists accepted the city’s offer to then move to an empty storefront on Rivington Street, named for leftover lettering on a nearby sign that had once read “Abogado y Notario Publico.” By 1994 though, the space was running aground with the city, which stopped accepting ABC No Rio’s rent checks and asserted it would transfer the building to a developer. After three years of protest in a drawn out eviction battle with the Giuliani administration, the city relented and announced that the artists could have the building as long as people stopped living there and $100,000 was raised for repairs. Over time, the city’s attitude toward the space also changed: In 2006 New York sold the Rivington Street building to ABC No Rio for a dollar. The center has since then raised $1.6 million in private donations and been given $6.45 million in grants through City Council members, former Manhattan Borough president Scott M. Stringer, and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

The demolition and rebuilding of the space on Rivington has been planned for years, but the final push came from developers paying $30 million for a former matzo factory next to ABC No Rio, which they plan to replace with high-end condos. Due to the art space’s building’s age and condition, it seemed unlikely the current structure would hold during the leveling next door. The center’s programming and operations during the building period will disperse, with organizers of the center’s weekly Saturday matinee punk shows saying they would shift performances to other venues starting in July, such as the Silent Barn in Brooklyn. The architect for the new ABC No Rio, Paul Castrucci, said it would be “one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the city,” and include roof gardens to insulate the structure and reduce rain runoff into the city’s sewer system, as well as natural ventilation and lighting.