Ward 1 Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07’s proposal to replace York Square Cinema with a Yale and community-owned cooperative theater is no longer be feasible after the owners of the space on Broadway said a new renovation schedule will interfere with Livengood’s plans.
The perceived change in plan is likely to affect Livengood’s re-election platform, which included her proposition last month to fill the vacant theater space with a cooperative theater jointly owned and operated by Yale students, faculty and New Haven residents. Yale Film Society vice president Sam Kendrik ’06 said the YFS and other student groups had received permission to use one of the building’s unoccupied theaters for film screenings, but Maria Vitagliano, one of the property’s co-owners, said the owners had to change their plans to loan space to Yale students last week after the time line for the space’s renovation was moved up.
“It’s a disappointment it won’t be used as a cultural space, but I think we have seen an important process with the way that developments work, where people throw out ideas,” Livengood said. “Some are successful and some aren’t.”
Vitagliano said York Square property owners had planned to develop the space for commercial use after the cinema closed this summer. The renovations were originally slated to begin at the end of the academic year, but now are set to start within the next few months, Vitagliano said. Because renovations will begin sooner than expected, she said the space needs to be empty.
“We just can’t have any obstacles to that process, and we just didn’t want the YFS there to get in the way of any of the renovations,” Vitagliano said.
Kendrik said YFS would have used one of York Square’s theaters for theater group productions, while the other would have been reserved for sneak previews and cultural events.
Some film buffs said they were disappointed the plans for the space fell through.
“We’re disappointed about the decision, but there’s not much we can do about it,” YFS member Rachel Kishton ’08 said. “Apparently the owners don’t have a desire to keep it as a cultural space.”
Brett Konner ’06, a film studies major, said there are no locations in New Haven to see quality films.
“The bottom line is that there’s no great venue anymore for Yale students who want to watch good films, except that every now and then Whitney Humanities Center shows something,” Konner ’06 said.
The Board of Alderman will only have input in the property’s final outcome if the development requires zoning changes, she said.
“I trust the owners are interested in developing a space that’s culturally and economically viable for the town,” Livengood said.
The York Square Cinema property is owned and operated independently of the University. The cinema went out of business this summer after struggling with financial losses and distribution conflicts with major Hollywood production companies.
“We love having Yale as a neighbor,” Vitagliano said, “but I think that the students now at this point are creating all these rumors. Frankly, I find it kind of silly.”
Vitagliano and the three other families who jointly own the space have an interest in developing the closed cinema for other commercial purposes, she said.
“We need to create some sort of income from that building,” Vitagliano said.