PACNYC, the Perelman Performing Arts Center, will host its first performance on Sept. 19

There is so much news coming out of the World Trade Center today that I will have to break it into pieces: the PACNYC, or Perelman Performing Arts Center (it seems to have two names), opened officially with a “ribbon connecting” ceremony; the streetscape has completely changed (now you can understand why its address is 251 Fulton); and the restaurant inside the performing arts center is now officially Metropolis by Marcus Samuelsson and coming this fall. More on the latter two tomorrow. The first public performance will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 19, with “Refuge: A Concert Series to Welcome the World,” a five-night global music series.

The first remarks today — before Michael Bloomberg, who is the chair of the PAC, and before the governor and the mayor — were from Paula Grant Berry, a board member of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum whose husband David died 22 years ago. She put it all in perspective: “This site makes me feel proud,” she said. “We have built three essential monuments that make sure we will never forget: a place to mourn in the memorial, a place to learn at the museum and a place to celebrate life, the performing arts center.”

The space is fittingly dramatic. There are no views, which is what you often seek when in a building overlooking something like the 9/11 Memorial. Instead, the views all turn inward, since what catches your eye at every turn is the scene-stealing marble that clads the entire cube. During the day — I have yet to be there at night — it glows from the light outside. A wall of panels will magically get brighter when the sun — which of course is out of sight — comes out. (More on the architecture, by Tribecan Joshua Ramus and his firm REX, here.)

There are times when you see a sliver of the sepia marble and others when it soars overhead, panel after panel.

The entire lobby — including the bridge area on the southside, which overlooks the entrance staircase — will be open to the public at all times. There will be spontaneous performances there, and I would assume lounge seating as well. Certainly the bridge is a great spot to bring the laptop.

The three main theater spaces are shapeshifting — they are designed to transform into 62 configurations with the help of guillotine walls, and mobile seating towers and floors that rise and fall on a complex of retractable columns. We were given a peek at one configuration, which combined the John E. Zuccotti Theater with a bit of the Mike Nichols Theater. The idea is to allow directors to create the space that works best for their show; the place will look different every time you visit. (In fact on my last tour, I am pretty sure there was a wide hallway where the stage is in this shot.)

The event really was moving. During a rendition of “Beautiful City” from Godspell by Gavin Creel, dancers from the Joffrey waltzed through the space holding swaths of different colored satin ribbon; when they finished their serpentine walk, they had compressed their line to be connected.

“Culture gets commerce,” Bloomberg said. “If we keep investing in the arts, the brightest days of the city are ahead of us.”



  1. Beautiful and very impressive!

    I hope we get to hear some of the greats of the NYC downtown scene performed here, like Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson (Tribeca native?), La Monte Young (whose Dream House / Mela Foundation is still here in Tribeca on Church Street), David Byrne, Bill Laswell, John Zorn (who maybe should be asked to curate a series here as he does run The Stone, one of the best music venues in the city), along with new and upcoming composers and artists.

  2. Can we agree it should be colloquially called “Pacnic?” Like, picnic, but with an a in the first syllable.

    I’m never saying Perelman anything.

  3. Hi Pam! Thank you for this. Is the city planning on opening the streets (Vesey and the other in between the oculus and the memorial)? I noticed the pavement has been freshly painted and there seems to be new signage that would be for cars.

  4. “Paula Grant Berry [said]…”We have built three essential monuments that make sure we will never forget: a place to mourn in the memorial, a place to learn at the museum and a place to celebrate life, the performing arts center.” Very well said, Mrs. Berry. We needed all three, and now we have them.