A new multipurpose creative space has opened its doors in Crown Heights.
The Crown Hill Theatre will host live music, film screenings, theater productions and serve as an event space. The location will also offer training to youth, preparing them for careers in media, technology and theater production.
A grand opening ceremony for the space was held on Tuesday night, with major support from the city’s officials.
Attendees included Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers, Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Keith Howard, and Councilmember Chi Ossé, who represents District 36, which includes Bed-Stuy and parts of Crown Heights.
“This is an outcome-based opportunity where our young people are going to be exposed to things that they've never seen before,” Reynoso said at the event. "We didn’t build this in Park Slope, we didn’t build this in Sheepshead Bay, it doesn’t exist in an obscure neighborhood in Manhattan no one can get to; it’s in the heart of a Black and brown neighborhood here in Brooklyn.”
However, before the Crown Hill Theatre opened at the location, it was home to the Black Lady Theatre, an Afrocentric cultural hub that had been at the site since the mid-1980s.
The location has been embroiled in an ownership dispute since the death of The Black Lady Theatre’s owner George Phillips in 2008. The Black Lady Theatre continued to hold events in the space until 2019, when they faced eviction after the property was purchased at a foreclosure auction.
Crown Hill Theatre’s founder Peter Tulloch leased the space from its new owner in 2021 and promptly began renovations.
“It went through all the different phases of deterioration, so we had to clean out everything,” said Tulloch. “Here was an opportunity where this building was going to be torn down and turned into an apartment complex unless somebody stepped in and leased it.”
However, members of The Black Lady Theatre say they still own the building. A protest took place outside the doors of the theater as guests entered the venue for the opening ceremony, with members of the Black Lady Theatre group alleging deed theft.
“How are you doing a grand opening, but you block the community out?” said Omar Hardy, who runs the Black Lady Theatre organization. "A grand opening is supposed to be for the community to come in."
Tulloch said he has no responsibility in the ownership dispute, as he is leasing the space and is not the owner.
“I leased the space; I don’t own this. That’s not my fight,” said Tulloch of the protests. “I have nothing to do with that.”
Tulloch said his vision for the space is much bigger than just an event space. He equipped the theater with a podcast studio, music studio and computer lab, so students can learn coding, video editing and music production, which are what he calls “the new trade skills."
Crown Hill's training program will take youth from the city's Summer Youth Employment Program and train them as well as have them work on the venue's productions.
“What we're doing is taking the opportunity and running a program with the idea that we're going to be able to help place them with jobs,” said Tulloch, who has a background in the music industry. “We want to make this program as inclusive as possible.”
The special guest of the evening was Brooklyn-based actor Rosie Perez.
“I am so thoroughly impressed by what [Tulloch] has accomplished in such a short time,” said Perez. “This space is going to be so instrumental to this neighborhood.”
The Crown Hill Theatre is located at 750 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn, NY, 11216.