In October, 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New Amsterdam headquarters in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Since May of last year, when we signed the lease on a 3000-square-foot warehouse on Van Dyke Street, two blocks from New York Harbor, the New Amsterdam staff (with help from our artists and friends!) had been working hard to gradually convert the raw industrial space into a clean, warm, and inviting home that could be used for rehearsals, workshop performances, artist incubation, meetings, social events, and anything else that might benefit the greater NewAm community. New York is an incredible place to make music but space can be hard to come by, and when we saw the warehouse, even in its initial, dilapidated condition, we knew we had to take a chance and try to make it functional. By the end of September, we had finally begun to see the results, as the space began to be used as an office, a composition and rehearsal space, a hangout, and even an occasional performance venue. It looked great (especially when you knew how far it had come!) and, most importantly, was useful and being used.
Sandy filled our headquarters with nearly 4 feet of water, enough to not only destroy nearly everything below that water line but also to knock over furniture above it, rendering many of our preparation efforts pointless. The damage to the space was extensive, both in terms of structural damage and in the destruction of CDs, computer equipment, musical instruments, vital documents, and much, much more. You can read more about the initial impact of the storm here; since that time, we have had to remove all drywall below the five-foot line throughout the warehouse, two bathrooms’ worth of plumbing implements, entire walls of cabinets (which we had newly installed), our entire kitchen (including all appliances), and much more. We’ve also had to have our entire lower electrical system rewired and have undergone extensive mold testing and remediation. We have been unable to use our headquarters as a headquarters for most of this time, returning only for necessary access to those documents and computer records that were undamaged, and to do physical work on the space.
We’re writing now with two pieces of good news. The first comes with an enormous thank you, and is that the amount of money we have raised since October is proving sufficient to cover our rebuilding costs and to replace our artists’ lost CD stock. Our thanks go to the hundreds of donors from around the world who gave generously in our time of need, allowing us to have the financial backing that underlay our cleaning and rebuilding efforts, from mops and bleach to drywall and shelving units to mold remediation and rewiring to new appliances and electrical equipment and everything else. Our thanks also go to the dozens of volunteers who gave us hundreds of person-hours and some serious expertise in the cleanup and rebuilding process. We would not have been able to do any of this without the generous support that you all provided. And even beyond the money and time that you have all given, the testimonials to our organization that you sent us or wrote publicly in various outlets were truly inspiring, quite literally in the sense that we were inspired to not give up on our goals, to double our efforts and to come back stronger than we were before.
This leads to our second piece of good news, which is that we are finally able to announce that the New Amsterdam headquarters is back to a state of functionality — limited, but functional. There’s still a long way to go in the rebuilding process, and we’re not at all finished, but yesterday marked a milestone: we held our first musical event in the warehouse since September, a rehearsal for tonight’s Ecstatic Music Festival concert with Deerhoof, Dal Niente, and Marcos Balter, which went off without a hitch. Hearing the space resonate with the sound of their music (which is, by the way, fantastic) was a highlight of our year, providing a justification for all the work we’ve put in to get back to this point. Rebuilding has been an intense, difficult process, with countless hours of staff time devoted to the task, both physical and in the evaluation and decision-making process. Our organization has managed to remain active and vital throughout, launching a series of major initiatives such as our partnership with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, releasing four records, and presenting and supporting many concerts, including our annual relationship with Kaufman Music Center’s Ecstatic Music Festival (and plenty of concerts in forthcoming seasons). But the work on the space has, frankly, been a real drain on our organizational productivity. Having the space up and running again is a justification for all that work, and we hope that the future opportunities it offers to many artists will be a further ongoing justification, larger than we even anticipated when we signed the lease last May.
With our organization being so overburdened with the combination of normal administrative duties and the extensive rebuilding activities, we have been remiss in properly thanking our network of supporters, including all our donors, everyone who came out to help clean up, all the writers who covered our story, and our friends in Chicago who threw a major benefit for New Amsterdam, bringing out dozens of musicians to help support the cause. Again, we thank you from the bottoms of our individual hearts, and collectively, and pledge to justify your efforts by continuing to work as hard as we can to create opportunities for audiences to hear the incredible music that independent artists are making today. We will be hosting an event in the spring to celebrate our “rebirth”, but until then, we invite you to contact us if you feel like stopping by the headquarters to see how it looks as we move toward a state of completion.
Many thanks and we look forward to seeing you soon.