92nd Street Y Changes Name to ’92NY’ and Gets Long-Awaited Renovation

Changes are afoot at 92nd Street Y. For starters, it technically isn’t its name anymore.

After emerging from a difficult pandemic that halted its in-person programming, the longtime Upper East Side institution for the arts and enrichment has rebranded itself, leaned into digital offerings and is now about to begin a long-awaited renovation of her home on the corner of 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for later this month at one of the cultural center’s public performance spaces, Buttenwieser Hall. Work on this space will launch a new phase of what officials say is a larger $200 million masterplan to reinvent the campus, which is primarily concentrated in two buildings on one block of Lexington Avenue between 91st and East 92nd Streets.

The plan was drawn up during the pandemic largely by Seth Pinsky, the institution’s chief executive, which last month was renamed 92nd Street Y, New York – or 92NY for short.

When Mr. Pinsky, the former head of the Bloomberg administration’s economic development arm, took over in the fall of 2019, the cultural and community center had already raised $180 million, some of which was earmarked for building improvement.

But the pandemic has given Mr. Pinsky and his team more time to figure out exactly how to upgrade the space while keeping it operational. Now, he said, they are undertaking the most significant renovation to the campus since the addition of its South Building in the 1960s.

“The 92nd Street Y looks a lot like New York,” Mr. Pinsky said. “Amazing things are happening here. But, like in New York, for a number of years we underinvested in maintenance and capital. And now is the time for us to improve our internal systems, to make the building more psychically appealing, and to make the building more flexible so that programmatically, as 92nd Street Y continues to evolve, the building can evolve with it. ”

The workers have already modernized part of the building’s infrastructure and created a new outdoor space on the roof of one of the buildings. Next, the $24 million renovation phase will include improvements to Buttenwieser Hall, the creation of a new dance studio on the second floor of the North Building, and improvements to the gymnasium, known as the May Center. Officials also plan to demolish and relocate some office space in the main areas of the building to make room for even more performance space.

The money available will cover this phase of the work, which should take 12 to 18 months. But it will take additional fundraising to complete the full $200 million plan, Pinsky said. What exactly will happen in the next phase of the renovation is still under discussion.

“We want to move forward and push the plans a bit forward and make sure we have a good idea of ​​the pricing and we have the resources available before we announce exactly what we’re going to do,” he said. declared. “But the goal is for the next phase to be at least as important as this – and hopefully even more important.”

A nearly 150-year-old institution, 92NY has become well known for its wide range of programming, which includes lectures from high-profile public figures. Founded by a group of German Jewish professionals, 92NY also offers language and music lessons, as well as activities associated with Jewish life.

Some of the upcoming renovations to decades-old buildings are designed to improve energy efficiency, upgrade heating and cooling systems, and ensure new restrooms and lockers meet Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

On a recent visit, a black-and-white “92NY” banner hung outside on Lexington Avenue, marking the space. Forward-facing walls had been repainted with the signature logo, and glass display cases had been filled with new posters that offered upbeat proclamations like “INNOVATIVE IDEAS CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.”

But inside, the ceilings in some offices were showing their age. Walking from floor to floor, officials acknowledged that the building is something of a maze that has essentially been cobbled together over the decades in ways that don’t always make sense. The gym, for example, is on a different floor than the men’s locker room – one of the issues they hope to address in part through the renovation.

Buttenwieser Hall, which Pinsky says currently has “the aesthetic of a high school gymnasium”, will soon be saying goodbye to its proscenium stage in favor of a retractable stage, movable wings and retractable seats. . The venue’s lobby, dimly lit on a recent afternoon, will also be “open” in various ways, Pinsky said. The nearby office space on the same floor will be transformed into a new dance studio and recital space.

Pinsky said the pandemic has forced officials to move more programming online and made it clear that 92NY has an audience that extends beyond the city. As such, they embarked on rebranding (think of “92NY” as a fashion brand that has Paris in its name, he said – firmly rooted in a world-famous city of a way that elevates the brand globally); and they rolled out a new online platform for live interactive lessons and instruction called Roundtable by the 92nd Street Y, New York.

The platform grew out of 92NY’s acclaimed adult education program and will feature discussions with Pulitzer Prize winners, Michelin-starred chefs, poets and academic leaders. There are upcoming classes on the drawings of Franz Kafka; the sights, foods and wines of Northern California; and world politics.

“Our values, the mission will never change,” Mr. Pinsky said. “But the way we interact with the public and the way we deliver our services and content must change.”

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