Poets House Opens State-of-the-Art New Home for Poetry in New York City

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Poets House, a 50,000-volume poetry library and literary center, has opened the doors to its new home at 10 River Terrace in Lower Manhattan. The newly constructed $8.7 million space promises to be one of the globe's great poetry destinations.

Today marks an important step forward in Lower Manhattan's revitalization, as we celebrate this important new resource for local residents and visitors from across the City and around the world.

Poets House, a 50,000-volume poetry library and literary center, has opened the doors to its new home in Battery Park City. The newly constructed $8.7 million space is located on the ground and second floor of 10 River Terrace, a "green" residential building in Lower Manhattan's Battery Park City designed by Polshek Partnership. At 11,000 square feet, the new space is nearly double the size of the former home of Poets House, a second floor loft in Soho which closed in December of 2007. Poets House will occupy its new space rent-free through 2069 under an agreement with the Battery Park City Authority.

"Poets House is both a location and a welcoming hearth for poets and all who want to experience poetry," said Margo Viscusi, Poets House Board President Emerita and co-chair of the Campaign for Poets House. "But, in almost 25 years of existence, it has never had a permanent home. In a miracle of vision and will and cooperation, the public and private sectors, along with our staff and board and all our many friends, have constructed this new, permanent 'house of possibilities' in a rejuvenated downtown Manhattan. As the visual arts have their museums and music its concert halls, American poetry finally has its home."

"Poets House now has an expansive home to match the breadth of its programs, thanks to the leadership of its board and staff, inspiring and sustainable design, and strong support from government and the local community," said Commissioner Kate D. Levin of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. "Today marks an important step forward in Lower Manhattan's revitalization, as we celebrate this important new resource for local residents and visitors from across the City and around the world."

"We are thrilled to welcome New Yorkers and visitors from around the globe to experience our new world-class home for poets and poetry," said Lee Briccetti, Executive Director of Poets House. "Many thousands of residents and tourists will have the chance to hear the premiere poetic voices of today and also curl-up with their favorite classics. Poets House is not just about creating an opportunity for people to fall in love with language but to enter a conversation with all the poets who ever lived - to enter into a conversation between the living and the printed word."

The new home promises to be one of the globe's great poetry destinations. The "green" space was custom-designed by New York architect Louise Braverman to LEED gold standards.

Highlights include:

  • state-of-the-art "green" construction including insulation made of recycled blue jeans, lights that adjust based on natural daylight, low-flow lavatories, and the use of building materials that are recycled or manufactured locally;
  • the Poets House Reading Room, which houses the 50,000-volume Reed Foundation

Library (with room to grow), offers comfortable settings for reading, writing and conversation; the Elizabeth Kray Hall, which offers New Yorkers and visitors the opportunity to hear leading poetic voices from around the world. This distinctive new literary venue is outfitted with cutting edge technology to easily archive and broadcast events;

  • the spacious and whimsical Constance Laibe Hays Children's Room, which will help inspire young imaginations;
  • a poetry-enriched streetscape - Poets House plans to project sonnets onto the sidewalk to welcome the public;
  • a new outdoor amphitheatre, designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, that enables audiences to experience the poetic equivalent of Tanglewood;
  • an original light-reflecting mobile by world-renowned artist Alexander Calder;
  • expansive windows facing Nelson Rockefeller Park with sweeping views of the Hudson River;
  • a distinctive, crystalline entrance featuring majestic double height ceilings, and an egg-shaped Cheney Chappell Exhibition Space that when illuminated will appear to float;
  • reinforced floors - typically floors can support 100 lbs. per square foot, but in the area for the compressed stacks of books, the floor is built to support 400 lbs. per square foot;
  • the Stanley Kunitz Conference Room will hosts classes and workshops. This room and other spaces can be rented by other literary groups at affordable rates.

Founded in 1985 by two-time poet laureate Stanley Kunitz and Elizabeth Kray, Poets House contains one of the most comprehensive open-access collections of poetry in the United States. Each year, Poets House presents over 200 public programs, including panels, lectures, readings, writing workshops and walking tours in New York City and nationwide. The decision was made to leave off the apostrophe in its name because, according to Kunitz, "some things must never be possessed but shared."

In 2006, Poets House signed a 60-year, rent-free lease agreement with the Battery Park City Authority to build a new library at the base of the 10 River Terrace condo tower. The space is rent free through 2069. With the move, Poets House estimates that over the course of its new lease it will save about $60 million, which will now go to programs and services.

On average, the loft space in Soho (which closed in December 2007) attracted 10,000 to15,000 visitors per year. Poets House expects its new home in Battery Park City to welcome more than 30,000 people per year.

To construct the new facility, Poets House launched an $11.2 million capital campaign with $2.5 million of the total for reserves and the endowment. Margo Viscusi, President Emerita of the Poets House Board of Directors and trustee of the Mary McCarthy Literary Trust, serves as co-chair for the campaign which has raised $9.8 million to date.

Project funders include: The City of New York through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs with support from the New York City Council and the Manhattan Borough President; the Empire State Development Corporation; the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the New York State Council on the Arts; New York State's Community Capital Assistance Program through Assemblyperson Deborah Glick; and private foundations and individual supporters.    

Denham Wolf served as Poets House's real estate advisor and overall project manager, helping to secure interim office space, coordinating the project team, and overseeing design and construction. Cauldwell Wingate was the project construction manager, and New Civic Works were the LEED consultants who helped design a "green" strategy for Poets House.

Other nonprofits to be located in RiverHouse include The New York Public Library (slated to open next year) and the Mercy Corps Action Center to End World Hunger.

Poets House is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 11am - 7pm, and Saturday from 11am - 6pm. For more information, visit http://www.poetshouse.org.

Follow Poets House on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/poetshouse or became a fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/poetshouse.

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Suzanne Wise
Poets House
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