“The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, a cornerstone of Puerto Rican, Latinx, and multicultural arts in New York’s Lower East Side, proudly announced the commencement of a significant accessibility project. This initiative, which launched on January 6, 2024 during the company’s annual Three Kings Day celebration, marks a historic moment for the 1897-built, six-story, 100,000 square foot building. Elected officials, community leaders, and The Clemente’s artistic community gathered at 3pm to celebrate this milestone, symbolizing our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

The Groundbreaking event included an introductory speech from Executive Director and emcee Libertad Guerra, following by poet and staple of downtown Nuyorican literary scene Edwin Torres. Deputy Commissioner of Public Buildings Salvatore Cali Jr., Borough President Mark Levine, Council Member (D-01) Christopher Marte, and Council Member (D-06) Gale Brewer also gave remarks, with a closing speech from Dr. Manuel Morán, Founder of Teatro SEA. Ryan A. Murray, NYC Aging Executive Deputy Commissioner was also in attendance.

The day included the organization’s annual Three Kings Day (Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos) block party and toy giveaway from 3-5pm at The Clemente Center, 107 Suffolk Street, NY. The Three Kings Day event was presented by The Clemente and Teatro SEA, one of its resident theater organizations. The event has been celebrated for the past 20 years. It wasn’t just a party, it was a journey into Hispanic culture and traditions with live music, puppetry, vibrant atmosphere, and free gifts for hundreds of children. It was a perfect outing for families, friends, and everyone looking to experience a unique cultural event.

For three decades, The Clemente has been an arts haven, fostering creativity and cultural expression. It has hosted hundreds of art and community events annually, including signature festivals like the International Puppet Fringe Festival, the Borimix Festival, and River to River festival events. Most recently, The Clemente hosted the People’s Bus project in partnership with the Civic Engagement Commission, and has also been a nurturing ground for artists like Rita Indiana, Esperanza Spalding, and Guadalupe Maravilla. With the completion of this project, The Clemente will expand considerably, welcoming not only the 70,000 visitors and participants already served annually, but including those with physical disabilities, as well as more technically complex productions.

With nearly $13 million in funds from the City of New York, the renovation will make The Clemente fully ADA compliant, featuring an elevator and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms to its main theaters. Upgraded restrooms, hallways, and a new elevator in our five-story building will improve the accessibility and utility of our spaces, benefiting artists, producers, and visitors alike. Moreover, our lobby’s LES Gallery will undergo a complete renovation to continue showcasing community and critically acclaimed exhibitions.

“An institution that has long been by and for the Lower East Side community, The Clemente will finally be able to welcome community members of all abilities with these accessibility measures. Updating a 130-year-old building is no easy feat, so I’m thrilled that our office could contribute funding to help ensure this is a space open to all New Yorkers and artists,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “In centering accessibility, The Clemente is committing to a future that removes barriers to the arts.”

“In addition to the enhancements, we will launch a fund to continue to provide meaningful infrastructure upgrades, and to keep cultural workers’ ability to develop new works live in Lower Manhattan with upgraded production values, underscoring our dedication to multi-generational audiences and families of Latinx and diverse cultural heritages. This aligns perfectly with our mission to be a dynamic hub for cultural engagement, equity and affordability.” said Libertad Guerra, Executive Director.

“As one of the anchor organizations, we are thrilled about this transformative renovation and the implementation of an ADA project to enhance our Cultural Center. This endeavor is particularly significant for Teatro SEA’s ongoing commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, especially for our family and child audiences. The project ensures a more inclusive space, providing access for children with disabilities and improved facilities, including enhanced bathrooms. We believe in fostering an environment where the joy of the arts is accessible to everyone, and this renovation is a crucial step toward realizing that vision,” said Dr. Manuel Morán, Founder of Teatro SEA.

The groundbreaking project not only revitalizes a historic space but also reaffirms The Clemente’s role as a beacon of cultural diversity and artistic innovation in New York City. The project is designed by Sage and Coombe Architects and supported by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The nearly $13 million project is being funded through the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Mayor, the City Council, and the Manhattan Borough President.

“The Clemente is a hub for community and cultural activity, a space whose programming brings artists and audiences together to create something that is deeply rooted in the Latinx history and artistic legacy of this neighborhood,” said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “‘We’re so proud of the city’s nearly $13 million investment in this much-needed accessibility project, which will expand access to the facility and its remarkable programming for all New Yorkers.”

“The Clemente is a vital community space that preserves the area’s cultural heritage, inspires residents and visitors, and nurtures artistic talent. I am proud to have been able to support the accessibility upgrades that will allow more neighbors to gather and build community and make the Clemente stronger,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02).

Read here: https://ritzherald.com/nycs-clemente-soto-velez-cultural-and-educational-center-launches-historic-accessibility-project-during-three-kings-day-celebration