Editor’s Note: This story was published in our October, 2012 magazine issue.
At a time in which many downtown performance venues are closing, it’s refreshing to see one of the neighborhood’s most-loved establishments, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, actually flourishing. After recently being awarded $1 million from the city, the organization is embarking on the much needed renovation of its building on East 3rd Street The project, which is expected to cost around $7 million, coincides with the Nuyorican’s 40th anniversary this spring.
“[The renovation] is probably going to go forward in stages because, as anyone trying to raise money for a capital project can tell you, it’s not easy to bring in $7 million dollars at one time,” executive director Daniel Gallant said, “but we have managed to accrue [enough] from the city to start the process of renovation and move forward.”
Started in Miguel Algarin’s living room in 1973 by a group of like-minded writers and poets, the cafe became famous for its popular evenings of spoken word, poetry slams and early hip-hop freestyle battles. The programming grew to include theater, live music, comedy, video and visual arts, and always sought to support underrepresented artists. Such talents as Miguel Piñero, Ntozake Shange, Sarah Jones, Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson have graced its stage.