Andrew Tobia


A Bushwick native and home renovation contractor hopes to save a little bit of historic theater from those damned real estate moguls.

Anthony Arroyo is currently raising funds on GoFundMe for an ambitious project to rent the ground level commercial space at the Ridgewood Theatre (55-27 Myrtle Ave.), and open there a community-focused performing arts space. The Ridgewood Theatre is owned by a group of investors that recently purchased, gutted, and rebuilt it into a pricy five-story apartment complex.

“I thought it was all condos,” Arroyo told Bushwick Daily. “But the ground level is still empty commercial space.”

“I just have a passion for this theater,” Arroyo said. “Ever since I was a kid, I always loved [it].”

That passion will cost $20,000, according to the GoFundMe campaign Arroyo created in August. So far, his petition has raised just $371 from a handful of donors despite 326 unique Facebook shares. 

“As the community and surrounding neighborhood changes, it could do better as a performing arts theater,” Arroyo said. “[Ridgewood Theatre] is basically in the crosshairs of Brooklyn and Queens, so one idea would be an annual Brooklyn versus Queens singing competition.”

In the current climate of real estate buyouts in Ridgewood, the competition is fierce. Arroyo is contending with well-backed firms with the capital to put his theater’s lights out.

Ridgewood Theater, the facade of which has been named a landmark by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in January 2010, has been marketed as an apartment rental building with prices that have shocked residents since July 2016. 

One-bedrooms are listed at $2,300 a month. Two-bedroom units go from $2,556 to $3,640, and some three-bedroom apartments are listed at $3,640 and $3,813. Realty firm EXR is brokering the property.

An EXR spokesperson described the amenities to QNS as “unlike any in the neighborhood: a top-of-the-line gym, full-service laundry room, co-working office space complete with private meeting rooms, tenants’ lounge, planted terrace, lobby, elevator, and a fully furnished roof deck with 360 [degree] views of the entire Manhattan skyline plus Brooklyn, Queens, and what lies beyond.”

The Ridgewood Theatre, designed by notable theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, opened in December of 1916, the same year that many of the neighborhood’s distinctive rowhouses were completed. It served as a cultural hub of the neighborhood for 92 years until it abruptly closed in 2008.

Whether Arroyo will be able to raise the funds for revamping the old theatre is another story. While supporters on the GoFundMe petition back the idea, the amount Arroyo has raised is desperately short of the mark.

The current owners of the apartment complex built on the site of the Ridgewood Theater could not be reached for comment, and a representative of the realty firm involved with the space declined to provide a statement.

Cover photo rendering courtesy Anthony Arroyo