Dip in Temperature Freezes Construction

The Leonard and Claire Tow Performing Arts Center is projected to be completed in 2017. / Paul Frangipane

Construction workers draped in orange and green take smoke breaks across the street from the skeleton frame of a concrete building that has become dressed with large polished window panes and a visibly wide staircase inside.

After nearly five years and $10 million donated, the Leonard and Claire Tow Performing Arts Center is projected to be completed in 2017.

The building has seen past estimated completion dates come and go without opening its doors to Brooklyn College, instead of showing off its naked interior on the corner of Campus Road and Hillel Place.

The Performing Arts Center has a solid concrete structure instead of a steel framed structure, which has caused pushback to completion. According to Francis X. Fitzgerald, the college’s assistant vice principal for facilities planning and operations, the solid concrete structure will prove for better acoustic properties in rehearsal spaces and performance stages.

Concrete can only be poured and sustained in certain temperatures, Fitzgerald said. Due to suboptimal temperatures in past winters, the concrete was unworkable and interior construction was delayed significantly.

“At this time, all the structural concrete and roof structures are completed and the installation of exterior finishes of the building have commenced,” Fitzgerald said.

Jean Gath, head architect on the project, also attributed the choice for concrete to its acoustical properties and its cost effectiveness. The choice was a joint decision with Pfieffer Partners, the architectural firm working on the project and the City University of New York.

“It did catch my attention…that we’d have a brand new performing arts center, but seeing the construction moving so slow, I really never had any expectations of seeing it done,” said J.P. Pacca, a former film production major at Brooklyn College that graduated before seeing the center’s opening.

Maria Connelli, the dean of the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts, believes the center will be worth the wait. “The Performing Arts Center will give our music and theater students an opportunity to really do things that they can’t do right now,” Connelli said.

After five years as dean, Connelli knows a few things about the students awaiting the new center. “This is by far the best college I’ve ever worked at, the students are engaged and really inquisitive and they come prepared.”

The continuous construction site has sparked a variety of reactions from students.

“There is something exciting about a fresh new building for students to grow as individuals, educate themselves and excel on the Brooklyn College campus,” said Jess Gariolo, a Brooklyn College television and radio major.

Adele Overbey, another Brooklyn College student had more critical thoughts. “My true hope is that the Leonard and Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts is completed on time,” said Overbey. “I would like to enjoy the amenities…while I am still attending Brooklyn College.”

Amenities of the center include: the largest performance hall on campus (200 seats), a state of the art recording studio, a music ensemble and chorus rehearsal space, class spaces, a center for computer music, practice rooms, studios, scene shop/set construction, an arcade and a theater rehearsal space that mimics the real sound of the stage. For all of these luxuries, Brooklyn College has Leonard and Claire Tow, two Brooklyn College alumni and creators of the Tow Foundation, to thank.

Connelli offered her praises for the alumnus. “He’s [Leonard Tow] somebody who is not just a donor and walks away from the project, he’s a donor who does this and stays engaged with the college.”

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