It’s been talked about for years. Now ABC Rio is making final plans to move out of 156 Rivington St., a crumbling building that will be replaced by a new home for the radical arts center.
Director Steven Englander told the New York Times that the last art shows will happen next month before the building is cleared out at the end of June. Demolition is possible by the fall of this year. ABC No Rio has been ensconced in the tenement since 1980, as the Times put it, withstanding “speculation, rising rents, a protracted eviction battle with the Giuliani administration and more, becoming a defiant symbol of an ungentrified New York.”
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Although the razing and rebuilding have been planned for years, delayed by red tape and rising costs, the decision to act now came after developers recently paid $30 million for a former matzo factory next to No Rio that they plan to replace with million-dollar condos. Given No Rio’s age and condition, the structure seemed unlikely to survive the demolition next door. So, No Rio’s member collectives have begun preparations to “go into exile,” as some have put it, until their new building is completed. A few weeks ago the group’s zine library, one of the more prominent such collections in the country, moved to Clemente Soto Vélez, a community center on Suffolk Street, where No Rio’s director, Steven Englander, will also have an office. Volunteers have been packing up inside the third-floor darkroom. And organizers of the center’s weekly Saturday afternoon punk shows said they would shift performances to other places, including Silent Barn in Bushwick, Brooklyn, starting in July.
In the 1990s, ABC No Rio fought off attempts by the city to sell off the building to developers. But the organization committed to renovating the fragile tenement. That renovation project morphed into a campaign for a brand new center. The group has raised $1.6 million in private donations and secured more than $6 million in grants. You can read more about the new facility here.