Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Origins of the Midtown Community Court


Later this fall, we will host a 20th anniversary celebration for the Midtown Community Court.  The project has had an enormously rich history.  For example, the photo above was taken from Midtown's 10th anniversary, an event that featured Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Lord Chancellor of England and Wales.  The photo features two key figures from Midtown's history: Gerald Schoenfeld of the Shubert Organization and former New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

Schoenfeld and the Shubert Organization, which is the largest theatre owner on Broadway, played a particularly key role in the early days of the project.  Herb Sturz (another important early player), described a crucial breakfast meeting with Schoenfeld from the early 1990s:  
I was always complaining about panhandlers and such, and the mess-up in Times Square, and what can be done about it, and no one cared but the theater....I do remember very well saying to Gerry, “Gerry, you know what? If you give me a theater, I’ll give you a court” because I knew he’s so dramatic and that we could do it and that will take care of a place in Times Square. He offered it rent-free for three years. 
That breakfast meeting was really the spark that led to the creation of the Midtown Community Court.  For a variety of reasons, the Court was never located in the theater that Schoenfeld offered.  But Shubert's early support of the idea helped attract the attention of key city decisionmakers, foundations and other public and private partners.  I think it is safe to say that the Midtown Community Court probably doesn't happen without Shubert's initial push.  And that's why we have chosen to honor the Shubert Organization at the upcoming 20th anniversary celebration.

More to come on the history of the Midtown Community Court in the days ahead...