Lincoln Center Launches Plan to Make Amsterdam Avenue Side ‘More Welcoming’

lincoln center amsterdam avenue

Viewing Lincoln Center from West 65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (Google Maps)

On Tuesday, Lincoln Center announced a new initiative: teaming up with community stakeholders to reimagine the Amsterdam Avenue side of its iconic campus.

This is the latest in a series of strategic changes since leadership shifted back in 2019, which include the reopening of the redesigned David Geffen Hall, expanding free (or “Choose-What-You-Pay”) event offerings and partnering with New York City organizations to host everything from blood drives to graduations.


The end goal, per a press release, is to “break down barriers, physical and otherwise, between Lincoln Center and local community and audiences.” Precisely what that means remains to be seen, but promoting equity is at the center of the mission, as the board of directors seek to “explore how the Amsterdam Avenue side of the Lincoln Center campus can be made more accessible, welcoming and inclusive to create a greater sense of belonging.”

Considering Lincoln Center as we know it today was the result of a controversial 1950s “urban renewal project,” which razed the San Juan Hill community, the plan ultimately seems like a way to close the loop (and perhaps right a few wrongs in the process).

“The walls that once divided the Lincoln Center campus from the greater community are finally coming down,” Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing, said in a press release. “In the 1950s, Robert Moses had San Juan Hill declared a slum, displacing thousands of Black and brown West Side families from the community to make way for what is now Lincoln Center, building a physical barrier between the performing arts center and the community. Today, that barrier is nothing more than a relic of a shameful past. I am thrilled that Lincoln Center has committed to examining its history by redesigning its campus to be more inclusive of its neighbors and to further build community on the West Side.”


The current goals of the initiative include:

  • Better serving close neighbors, including residents of New York City Housing Authority campuses at Amsterdam Houses and Addition, and  students of LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts and the six high schools at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Complex.
  • Upgrading the performance park to meet artistic and community goals.
  • Commemorating the history and public memory of San Juan Hill, which has been called a “lost neighborhood.” Stay tuned for a series of events  and exhibits in partnership with organizations like the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CENTRO) and the Schomburg Center for  Research in Black Culture.
  • Collaborating closely with neighbors, partners and constituents to ensure a broad array of stakeholders have a voice in the process, allowing for  a lasting, positive impact.

“Just as we have enhanced our programming by making it more accessible to everyone, this process will engage the community on envisioning how we can create a beautiful and architectural welcome to our neighbors to the west, assuring that the campus beckons to everyone to come enjoy our offerings,” Katherine Farley, Chair of the Board of Directors stated.


The arts community appears to be in support, with groundbreaking ballet dancer (and board member) Misty Copeland remarking, “I have spent the last 22 years performing at Lincoln Center, and as a Black artist I am keenly aware of the power and importance of having the history and contributions of all communities to this campus acknowledged, embraced and celebrated. I am proud to be a part of an institution committed to bringing the past, present, and future together in a spirit of solidarity and inclusiveness.”

In addition to elevating existing (and aging) infrastructure through heating and cooling systems, public restroom facilities and power distribution, Lincoln Center will be engaging with its neighbors to decide what to prioritize during the re-imagination process. As of now, the best way to get involved is by offering feedback here and looking out for future focus groups, workshops and surveys at select programs during the 2023 installment of Summer for the City.


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