Irish Minister of State for Public Service Reform and the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes visited New York last week for a series of engagements that included meetings to discuss the development of a new Irish Arts Center in Manhattan.
Hayes has been granted overall responsibility for the project to redevelop the Irish Arts Center in the Hell’s Kitchen district of New York by the Irish government, and during his visit he met with the team involved.
“We’ve been working here in New York for the last number of years trying to bring the whole proposal for a brand new Irish Arts Center on,” Hayes told the Irish Voice.
“Very significant progress has been made this week by our team. It’s quite clear there is significant support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and from the Irish community here in New York.”
Some $34 million of the $50 million capital budget required to make the new Irish Arts Center a reality has been raised, Hayes said.
“From the Irish government’s perspective we’d like to get this project over the line so that it could be open by 2016. It would be a great centenary project given the fact that the building that will come into the ownership of the center was itself built in 1916. It would be a fitting tribute,” he said.
During his visit Hayes met with Quinn, who has been a strong supporter of the Irish Arts Center, and with the community department leading the funding push. Hayes added that some of his colleagues from the Office of Public Works would return next month to lodge an application in April for the next phase of the planning.
Ideally, construction on the new center should start by April of next year to be completed by April of 2016.
“It’s in her own district, she’s knows the area very well and she has been particularly encouraging,” Hayes said of Quinn.
“She’s been really committed to the new center for many years and she sees the potential, not just for Irish people who come here to the states, but also in terms of its legacy for so many artistic groups.
“We both envisage that the new center won’t just be an arts center but also a new Ireland house, to complement the other Irish centers of excellence in the city,” Hayes said.
“The mayor has also been extremely helpful in offering the support needed to get this project completed. The city has been the key funder in this effort.”
Hayes also attended the Best of Ireland dinner at the New York Athletic Club on Thursday, January 31. The event honored individuals for excellence in five categories -- sport, business, public service, philanthropy and arts.
This year’s honorees included Bank of America senior executive Anne Finucane, Senator George Mitchell, tennis legend Billie Jean King, Riverdance co-founders John McColgan and Moya Doherty, and the American Ireland Fund.
Hayes also travelled to Philadelphia last week to launch the “Succeed in Ireland” initiative, which is committed to bringing 5,000 new jobs to Ireland, at an event hosted by the Irish Network Philadelphia.
Hayes took the opportunity to brief other Irish networks in the city, including the Irish American Business Chamber and Network and the Brehon Law Society.
On Sunday afternoon, Hayes attended the reopening of the Monsignor Connolly Parish Center, home to the athletics program in Breezy Point, which is being redeveloped with the assistance of 20 members of the Gaelic Players Association.