Mia Yoo, Artistic Director of La MaMa E.T.C. (Experimental Theatre Club), responded to our story about Millenium Film Workshop being served an eviction notice from La MaMa on Wednesday night with this statement:
Since December 2010 La MaMa has been talking and meeting with Millennium Film to try and understand how we can help them as they continue to find ways to stablize their organization. We will continue to do so. We believe and support the mission of Millennium Film and consider it a very important cultural institution.
Tamara Greenfield, the Executive Director of Fourth Arts Block who has been mediating between Millenium and La MaMa over the past many months (including a long meeting yesterday) explained what the process has been like for the two non-profits, her belief that La MaMa wants to keep Millenium in its home (under a different configuration, where some of their current real estate can be rented out to increase revenue), and why she thinks there may have been an “overreaction” from Millenium to the eviction notice.
According to Greenfield, whose organization was founded in 2005 when 8 “homestead” buildings were sold to arts groups on East 4th Street for $8:
“I think there was an overreaction by Millenium. I just came from a meeting. We’ve been in a process over the lease for over a year.
“Because, as was explained by Jay, Millennium took a blow to their public funding, they’ve been reeling ever since, as a lot of arts groups have, and struggling with the economy.
“At a certain point when they stopped paying rent. We started having conversations about getting them on their feet. At one point, we tried to come up with strategies for them to earn revenue, to make sure they could make their rent. Over the same time, they’ve been hit with some really difficult situations, including a leadership transition.
“It sort of seemed that the same scenario [Millenium] has been in — over the past 40 year wan’t going to work anymore. It’s a really big space in a big building, and it costs a lot to run. La MaMa has been carrying those costs, and has been trying to say to them, ‘How can we keep you here and bring in other income to cover the costs?'”
Though La Mama bought Millenium’s building for just a dollar, Greenfield says that “A dollar is no bargain. This is a very a costly building. It puts a lot of pressure on [La MaMa] just to keep it running.”
As for the path ahead, Greenfield says:
“We’ve been working on a new arrangement that would provide Millenium a smaller space within the bigger space, but would allow La Mama to rent out the screening room, for example, to bring in other income. We’ve been in that process over the past few months, and now lawyers are involved. Artists have their language and lawyers have their language, and they use eviction notices. We all understand that.
[“The notice Millenium received Wednesday night] didn’t mean ‘You have to leave immediately.’ This is one step. [Millenium] will walk away from an old lease and develop a new lease.
“We were in a meeting today. We’re in negotiations, and hopefully we’ll come up with a new legal arrangement in the next few weeks or even days.
“Everyone has been really patient with each other. It’s hard when money is on the table.”