Does Roseland Ballroom's Demise End the Era of the Manhattan Megaclub?

Categories: Longform

baracardi-rebels-roseland-ballroom.jpg
Thunder Kick Photos/Splash News/Newscom
The Bacardi Rebels party at the Roseland Ballroom in June 2013.
voice-cover-roseland-ballroom.jpg
As ABBA's "The Way Old Friends Do" fades out, the house lights slowly come up on a few hundred men (and a smattering of women) who remain on the dance floor. It is 6:30 p.m. on March 23. The 20-hour marathon that was the 35th Black Party is history.

So is Roseland Ballroom.

After Lady Gaga completes her sold-out run of shows -- what she calls "a 10-day funeral" -- on April 7, the owner of the cavernous old building, which stretches from 52nd to 53rd streets between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, hopes to replace it with an apartment tower.

Stephen Pevner, who heads the Saint at Large, which produces the Black Party, wanted this year's theme, "A Ruined Paradise," to evoke "a ruined temple in the jungles of East India" but also Roseland itself, which he calls "a temple of dance [whose] aura of grandness evokes a style of New York that doesn't exist anymore."

Ever since word of Roseland's fate leaked in October, many people have denounced the venue's owner, Larry Ginsberg, as just another greedy landlord putting profits ahead of preservation. What they don't know is that Ginsberg had been keeping the increasingly decrepit dancehall on life support for years.

Roseland is the last undeveloped property owned by Algin Management, the privately held company Larry and his two sisters inherited from their father. Algin has built and now manages several thousand rental units in Manhattan and Queens. Pevner tells the Voice that the rest of the family would have been happy to be relieved of Roseland, but that Larry "loved hanging on to this last bit of his portfolio. It was fun for him." In the 1990s, after a $1 million rigging upgrade, Roseland hosted top acts that included Nirvana, BeyoncŽ, Madonna, and the Rolling Stones. Superstar DJs like Victor Calderone, Tiësto, and the late Peter Rauhofer kept the joint jumping past sunrise.

It had become obvious, however, that Algin would either have to spend a huge amount to make the extensive structural repairs necessary to bring the building up to code or face heavy fines from the New York City Department of Buildings. Jason McCarthy, the longtime manager of the Black Party, recalls a night when he dodged chunks of plaster raining from the ceiling.

In September, Pevner was informed that Algin intended to close the club in early March. "This is something we've been living with every year," the Saint at Large's Mike Peyton tells the Voice. "This didn't just come out of the blue. We've always known that any year could have been the last year." Algin did not respond to requests for comment, but the company has purchased the air rights to two Broadway theaters, virtually ensuring that a new building will tower over the neighbors

Pevner scouted other venues, but the Black Party not only needs a dance floor large enough to accommodate thousands of people, but also an entire weekend to install its own soundsystem and light rigs. The Saint at Large, which has held the party at Roseland for a quarter century, had a two-year option extending through 2015. "I told my lawyer to write a letter to address that we employ a staff full-time to work on this," Pevner says, "and if you're going to renege, here's the settlement." Pevner insisted that Ginsberg keep the club open at least through the third weekend in March, the one nearest the vernal equinox, which the party celebrates. According to Pevner, "They didn't want to end with the Black Party." So Ginsberg ended up with a win-win: Gaga gets reams of publicity and the club goes out in a blaze of glory.

Still, serious dance enthusiasts will always remember the club more for its unobstructed quarter-acre dance floor than as a midsize concert venue. Everything about Roseland was outsize, right down to its 14 coat-check windows.

More than anything, Roseland's closing marks the most painful sign to date that New York City's big rooms have become an endangered species. That a luxury residential space will likely replace it confirms the main culprit: an insatiable appetite for upscale housing that has transformed Manhattan, from the financial district to Harlem and beyond -- what Fordham professor Mark Caldwell, author of New York Night: The Mystique and Its History, has called "galloping gentrification."

[Single Page]

My Voice Nation Help
30 comments
Matthew Falcon
Matthew Falcon

There all crap compared to the raves we had at the park ave armory, brooklyn armory, randall's island, etc.... www.FaceBook.com/PAWNLASERS

Ken Wilhelm
Ken Wilhelm

Hammerstein SUCKS, why couldn't that one close!

Christopher Carambot
Christopher Carambot

no you still have hammerstein and terminal 5. i will miss rose land. so many great memories in there for the past 20 years of my life

John DeBaun
John DeBaun

Back in the day I loved the Palladium ! Now it's part of NYU I believe .

Chill Rebel
Chill Rebel

The ground /space that all the Huge Mega Clubs occupy are just simply worth more as Real Estate now. $$$ Talks !!!

Danelle Davis
Danelle Davis

I miss the good old places like Mother and Tramps...those were the days.

gahidee.baba
gahidee.baba

I thought the Manhattan megaclubs ended in the early 90's with the crackdown on Tunnel, Limelight etc?  The Manhattan scene I know has always been about smaller venues with a more homogenous, "exclusive" vibe. 

The few emerging big party places are now always in Brooklyn.   

gold
gold

taxes, perfect code enforcement, more taxes, high ticket prices to pay the tax, then higher taxes, then still higher ticket prices - get it? You want more government freebies, you elect a wild mayor, you get higher taxes, higher transit fares, higher tolls and, duh, closings like this. They can open it in Miami, Dallas, Austin, etc.  NYC is imploding right before your eyes. You voted for it, live with it. People with dough party in London or Paris. And they don't pay income taxes in the US, NY or NYC. And they pay low low low real estate taxes for their NYC "investments." Have a nice day on the subway, serfs.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin

THIS^^^. The only sure thing in NYC is that developers will get exactly what they want and that will include replacing points of interest with soulless, character-free steel and glass slabs for rich people to "live" in.

Luis Orozco
Luis Orozco

But of course because NYC needs another monstrosity apartment tower.

mrpoizun
mrpoizun

New Yorkers don't give a shit about anything, do they?  Tear down The House That Ruth Built and now this.

Jennifer Timm
Jennifer Timm

Saw so many great shows there-it's such a damn shame.

John Lee
John Lee

This article is only over 10 yrs late

epac666
epac666 topcommenter

RHCP, Pumpkins, Pearl Jam...12/91

Judas Priest...10/01

Slayer...6/02

Dio...12/02

AC/DC...3/03

Down...3/07

Motorhead...9/08, 9/09

Luis Orozco
Luis Orozco

Another apartment tower??? Hope the shit tips over and falls.

Glenn Davey
Glenn Davey

Oh no....... there's something like this happening in Melbourne Australia this year and it makes me so, so sad inside

Tom Greene
Tom Greene

Steely Dan September 2002 with William Boyd. Will miss the old Rose...

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...