New York City Department of Design and Construction

03/28/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/28/2024 12:01

City Begins $24 Million Renovation of Nuyorican Poets Café on Lower East Side

City Begins $24 Million Renovation of Nuyorican Poets Café on Lower East Side

Project Will Completely Renovate and Extend the Center, Adding New Performance Spaces, Lobby, ADA Access, Classrooms and More

DCLA:[email protected]
DDC: Denisse Moreno, [email protected], 718-391-1854

(New York, NY - March 28, 2024) The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced today the beginning of a $24.1 million City-funded renovation project for the Nuyorican Poets Café on Manhattan's Lower East Side that will transform and expand the iconic institution's home. The project is being managed by DDC for DCLA.

An artist's rendering shows the new, larger main performance space that will be built for the Nuyorican Poets Café

"For over five decades, Nuyorican Poets Café has served as a dynamic performance space and home for nurturing and showcasing the talents of rising poets, actors, filmmakers, and musicians from diverse backgrounds," said NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. "Nuyorican Poets Café's renovation will propel them into a new era, ensuring their stage can serve as a platform for artists and audiences for generations to come. More than just bricks and mortar, this project represents a commitment to preserving the legacy of the Puerto Rican diaspora and African-American culture while strengthening the community bonds of the vibrant Lower East Side neighborhood."

"This project will add performance areas that can be used as classrooms, will make the facility fully ADA accessible and will renovate the main performance space, allowing the organization to offer more programming simultaneously," said Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Thomas Foley. "DDC is a major contributor to the arts and in this one small part of the Lower East Side we are completing or have completed 13 projects with DCLA in the past 12 years, including the Downtown Art renovation project and renovations for the Rod Rodgers Dance and DUO Multicultural Arts Center in 2019."

"The Nuyorican Poet's Café reached its 50th anniversary in 2023 and what better way to usher in the next 50 years than with a complete transformation of the 100-year-old tenement building it calls home," said Caridad de la Luz, Executive Director, Nuyorican Poets Café. "This incredible renovation will help elevate the vast artistic community the NPC intentionally serves with two theaters, dressing rooms, a flex space, a garden area, an elevator and more. Once complete, this will not only be an historic performance venue, but a cultural institution. We look forward to providing access to our personal archive for educational purposes, curated exhibits and events that continue to honor the legacy the Café is most revered for."

Established in 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Café, a multicultural and multi-arts institution, has been a home for groundbreaking works of poetry, music, theater and visual arts on the Lower East Side for over 50 years. Its programming includes poetry slams, open mics, Latin & Contemporary Jazz and Hip-Hop concerts, theatrical performances, educational programs and visual art exhibits.

This project will renovate and expand the Café with a new main lobby and performance space on the first floor with an additional dedicated performance space on the fourth floor and a "flex" space on the second floor, which can be used as a classroom or rehearsal space. The project will also add a new elevator to the four-story building and office space for staff. These improvements will allow the organization to reach a wider audience by hosting multiple performances concurrently, while also providing local students with masterclasses and workshop opportunities.

The project will also entail exterior work including a new roof, extensive building envelope rehabilitation and waterproofing, a new ADA ramp for public access from the sidewalk level into the facility, new fire exit stairs as well as renovations to the plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems.

Through the NYC Percent for Art program, two site-specific works were commissioned for this project by the artist Cecilia Biagini. The project was designed by Rice+Lipka Architects and is expected to complete construction in Spring 2026.

The project includes the addition of two performance spaces and renovations to the Café's façade
Rendering of renovated ground floor bar for the Nuyorican Poets Café project

"The Nuyorican Poets Café is an iconic institution - the birthplace of a cultural movement and something very meaningful to Puerto Ricans from Loisaida and across the city," said Councilmember Carlina Rivera. "Having grown up on the Lower East Side, I am so proud to be able to support the preservation of Puerto Rican cultural heritage and this revered gathering space. Renovations will enable Nuyorican to expand their programming, welcome more guests, and foster new talent. I look forward to the continued positive impact the Nuyorican will have on our community."

About NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City's vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City's vitality. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City's five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City's primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor Adams' long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity, and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers, and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $28 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects, and consultants, whose experience brings efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit