OSI Capital Campaign raises over $2.8 Million to Revitalize Cultural Performance Center at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Harlem

Center to be Renamed ‘Robert Frederick Smith Center for the Performing Arts’ for $1 Million Gift from Benefactor

New York, NY (October 26, 2018) The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the success of a $2.8 million public private capital campaign to upgrade and revitalize the Cultural Performance Center at the Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Harlem. OSI spearheaded the effort to revitalize the Cultural Performance Center including: funding the original concept plan for the center’s redesign, bringing in $1.3 M of the fundraising, and raising significant support from other donors to leverage the state’s investment.

The performance space will be renamed the Robert Frederick Smith Center for the Performing Arts in recognition of businessman and philanthropist Robert Frederick Smith’s $1 million donation.

“Music and artistic expression have a unique power to unite families and communities,” said Robert F. Smith. “Few places embody that more than Harlem. I’m humbled by the opportunity to contribute to a center where people of all ages can come together in appreciation of the arts. By bringing together leaders in the public and private sectors for this effort, we are ensuring West Harlem’s rich culture and heritage can take center stage.”

“Robert Smith’s generous gift will have tremendous benefits to the people of West Harlem and all who use the cultural center to socialize, celebrate, enjoy performances and experience the arts,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO.  “We thank him and all the donors and supporters who have joined us in making the revitalization of this popular Harlem community centerpiece a reality.”

"Riverbank enriches the lives of Harlem community members in so many ways – and a big reason why is the range of experience opened to them by the cultural performance center," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "I am grateful to Governor Cuomo and our partners for their work to improve and modernize one of the state park system's most unique places. Their commitment to celebrating art and culture in West Harlem is an inspiration.

"Robert F. Smith's exceptionally generous gift will transform a functional, drab auditorium to a glorious performing arts and community space," said Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, chair of the New York State Council of Parks. "State parks are community anchors, serving as recreational, cultural and natural mainstays. Nowhere is that more evident than here at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park. I am grateful to all who stepped forward to support this project and am confident that this new cultural center will be a lively hub of music, dance, laughter, joy and community activity for generations to come."

Smith’s gift is the largest single donor contribution to the capital campaign launched by OSI in partnership with the New York City Regional Parks Commission and the Natural Heritage Trust. Other major support has come from the Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky State Parks Fund managed by OSI, the Durst Organization, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation. Public support comes from Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 program and grants from the late Assemblyman Denny Farrell, for whom the park was renamed last year, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and New York City Councilman Mark Levine.

The cultural performance center serves as one of Riverbank’s most popular and outstanding features—hosting scores of social, educational, and performance-related activities and events each year.  From ballet, jazz and orchestra performances to classes, summer camp activities and community programs, the facility welcomes more than 60,000 people a year.

OSI’s campaign will help revitalize a center that had become run down and unable to fully accommodate a full range of activities and events. OSI funded and directed the concept plan and the tech review, investigating the pre-existing conditions of the cultural center and reimagining the center’s design to modernize the space and help it to better serve the community. The project will elevate production values and bring added vitality to the center by:

  • replacing outdated house lighting and inadequate sound equipment;
  • installing new theatrical lighting;
  • modifying the stage area;
  • replacing 25-year-old bleacher seating; and
  • replacing the 25-year-old flooring.

 Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park has served as West Harlem’s recreational and cultural hub for almost 25 years.  The park welcomes more than three million people each year, ranking it among the most visited state parks in New York State.  It serves as a community resource for an area that was once cut off from the Hudson River. Providing a four-season recreational resource for a community that has been traditionally underserved, DF Riverbank State Park is a pillar of the West Harlem community.

About OSI’s Parks and Access Work 

 OSI, a nonprofit with broad experience assisting parks, has extensive experience running capital campaigns and leveraging public-private partnerships to upgrade park amenities, creating year-round hubs for park activity.

Successful OSI capital projects include the Nature Center at Letchworth State Park, Thacher Park Center at John Boyd Thacher State Park, the Cultural Center at River Bank State Park, upgrades to the facilities at Fahnestock, Niagara Falls and Jones Beach, OSI's River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, and the upcoming Minnewaska Visitor Center.

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