By PHIL NOBILE
Although the celebrated Mamaroneck Playhouse in the center of the village closed in mid-April, concerned citizens want to preserve the nature of the movie theater, thwart the possibility of condos and head development off at the pass.
The Mamaroneck Play-house, purchased by Bow Tie Cinemas in June 2013 with the stated intention of reviving the 89-year-old movie theater, closed its doors this past Easter, leading to concerns from agitated members of the community.
Despite no concrete intentions for the theater’s future, with the company only telling the mayor they planned to develop it into condominiums in April, village resident Carol Akin and members of the new group “Mamaroneck Residents for Protecting the Playhouse” want to ensure the Playhouse continues in its original purpose and not let Bow Tie’s real estate division—Bow Tie Partners—turn the building into anything else.
“We’d love for Bow Tie to have some compassion to a community that is outraged and be willing to work out a compromise,” Akin said. “This was complete deceit, and it hurts me that a corporation feels they can come into the village and take over something as special as our iconic and historic theater and make a decision to completely end the operation as a theater after all these years.”
Akin and others looking to grow a movement against Bow Tie are angry with the approach the company chose in closing the theater.
In April 2013, the company agreed to buy all of Clearview Cinemas’ 41 theaters in the region, with Chief Executive Officer Ben Moss stating “Bow Tie makes long-term commitments in the communities where we own theaters.”
Ultimately, the company came to Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, and other town officials in early April 2014 to let them know the company would cease movie operations in a week’s time and turn the property over to its real estate division to change the building to condos.
“Not only did they not do anything to the theater, but they intentionally let it go,” Akin said. “They wanted this to become less and less attractive.”
With plenty of anger from residents, village officials are still unsure about the future of the theater property going forward as of press time. According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, the village has had no contact or indication of Bow Tie’s intentions since they were notified in April of the theater’s closing.
“Not much is known by the village at this point,” Slingerland said. “The village does not presently have an application for a building permit, demolition permit, site plan application or other similar or related document. If and when they have an official proposal, application and permit, then we could comment officially on what [Bow Tie’s] plans are.”
If the company does choose to change or demolish the original building, it will be within its rights according to village code.
The building is located in a C-2 district, meaning residential development is allowed pending permit approval from the village’s Planning Board. According to Clark Neuringer, a current Harbor Coastal Zoning Management Commission member, interior alterations or no major exterior changes would not require variances from any of the village’s boards.
“Right now, the zoning ordinance encourages residential development on Mamaroneck Avenue,” Neuringer said. “It’s my understanding there are a lot of people running around concerned they’re going to demolish the building. Until documents are formally filed or they do a presentation or send out a press release, it is all speculation.”
Neuringer, who has served on each land use board or commission in the village in his more than 25 years in the village, said that the Board of Trustees has allowed and encouraged downtown residential building since adopting the encompassing comprehensive plan in 2012.
While Bow Tie’s intentions are in some doubt, Akin and her group are gearing up to combat any potential alterations to the theater. The group is encouraging others to help by emailing Bow Tie owners Ben and Charles Moss directly and actively in the hopes of keeping the character of the theater and village avenue alive, as well as asking anyone with means to possibly help the cause.
“We’re hoping that someone will come forth and offer to buy the theater from them and hopefully they’d be willing to sell it,” Akin said. “We hope that our calls and emails to Bow Tie will have them realize how widespread and strong the feelings are in this community.”
Akin’s group can be found on Facebook, and for more information you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.