| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:11

    New York’s cultural competitiveness is incessant. Audiences demand vitality, inventiveness and magnetism in their arts programming, and an institution’s value is continually, mercilessly re-evaluated.

    The new 92YTribeca certainly knows what it’s up against.The younger, hipper sister to 92nd Street’s seasoned community center opens its doors on Oct. 18 and hopes to establish itself as a downtown arts and entertainment staple—inclusive and all encompassing.

    Aimed specifically at the twenty-something crowd, the venue’s multiplicity is its selling point.The site features a bar and music stage, a 72-seat screening room, a lecture hall, art gallery and café, all of which will compete for the attentions of New York’s cultural carnivores.

    Associate Executive Director at 92Y, Helaine Geismar Katz likens the new site to a laboratory: It synthesizes innovations like a new comedy program, a dance improv series and 92Y’s foray into the restaurant business with eclectic programming spanning film, music, visual arts and education.

    “We want to always ensure that the 92nd Street Y does the best in every single area that it’s in,” she says. “We want to make sure that our health club is as good as any of the Equinoxes or New York Sports Clubs. Our competition is not another community center necessarily, although it could be, but we make sure that in our 37 businesses, we are as good in each one of them as the single purpose competition in that area.”

    New York real estate happens to be a relentlessly competitive world itself, and and the choice of location for the new 92Y—a multi-million-dollar space at 200 Hudson St., between Watts and DeBrosses streets—was of particular importance for the project, in development since 2006. Geismar Katz recalls how in the last decade, the city’s cultural epicenter has drifted south, due in part to the masses of young New Yorkers being more widely distributed over the city’s five boroughs. “We really thought that Downtown was becoming the new Midtown,” she says.

    Although location will be integral to 92YTribeca’s success, the venue’s cultural calendar will ultimately serve as its principal point of attraction. Rachel Chanoff, one of the site’s chief programmers, explains how the main premise of the space was to provide an openly communal, one-stop-shop arts venue, where participants can enjoy creativity, dialogue as well as blueberry lemonade.

    “It’s not just a venue where you buy a ticket, sit in a seat and go away—you can do that anywhere in the city,” she says. “We really have crafted this to be a place where you come and see someone’s work, show your own work and talk about it afterward. It’s going to be a real incubator I think, more than just a venue for entertainment.”

    The site’s initial showcase “18 Nights of Inspiration” includes an opening night concert with folkster John Vanderslice, film screenings and Q & A sessions with Lou Reed and Beastie-Boy-cum-filmmaker Adam Yauch, an eight-part “Byte Me: Inside Digital Gaming” series as well as appearances by comedians Zach Galifianakis and Eugene Mirman.

    So too, the center’s programming will also be heavily influenced by current affairs, with the election serving as the first major theme. “We want to keep it very, very topical,” says Chanoff. She mentions there’ll be a special screening of a Lil’ Bush episode (the animated comedy series chronicling “the playground days” of W and chums), as well as considerably more highbrow politically themed events like a screening of Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s new documentary, Return to the War Room.

    The versatility of the space itself will also serve the venue’s programming in terms of creating suitable environments for whatever an event or installation requires. “We’ve made it very flexible,” Geismar Katz says. “Flexible in the way we can use rooms, the lighting, the technology—just really [being] able to think something up and make it happen down there."

    With the recent decline of favored downtown venues like Tonic and the imminent relocation of the Knitting Factory to Williamsburg, 92YTribeca’s music space (accommodating approximately 200) may also bolster the venue’s appeal, with upcoming performances including jazz experimentalist Elliot Sharp and Brooklyn’s Care Bears on Fire.

    “I think the challenge for us is staying as cutting edge as we can,” explains 92YTribeca’s acting director, Naomi Lopin. And whether it’s regarding new bands, documentaries or video games, she says her staff has its fingers on the pulse of all arts phenomena, which will allow the site to continually spawn new programming ideas, and stay in tune with a demographic constantly spoiled for choice.

    A proudly Jewish institution, the 92Y has also incorporated Judaism-related programming since its inception in 1874. The Tribeca site will continue that trend with events like the “Hip-Hop Shabbat,” which features a discussion with Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg, the first Jewish DJ in the history of New York’s rap broadcaster. Other prominent Jewish personalities will also speak about their individual industries and Judaism, with sport, food and history-themed events scheduled in the upcoming months.

    “It’s certainly a piece that’s core to the institution as a whole,” says Geismar Katz, also emphasizing that 92Y has always focused on serving the entire community, regardless of ethnic, socio-economic or religious status. “We take that extremely seriously,” she says. “And we have shown it for 134 years of life here.”

    However, a sense of community, Jewish or otherwise, is not something that 92YTribeca will be actively pushing on its guests, as the venue’s primary purpose is to provide compelling arts fare to their target demographic.

    “We will do all we can to foster community,” Geismar Katz explains. “But on the other hand, if you don’t want that, and you really just want to come and see the movie, that’s OK with us.”