Town Antes Up for Playhouse

The East Hampton Town Board agreed this week to allocate $3 million toward the completion of the Montauk Playhouse, the Tudor-style building that has been developed as a community center by the Montauk Playhouse Community Foundation. The foundation is making a push to bring its full vision for the center into fruition.

The playhouse, constructed by Carl Fisher in 1927 and on the National Register of Historic Places, was donated to the town in 1999. The town contributed $6 million for the building’s repair and reconstruction, phase one of the project, in 2003. A gymnasium, fitness center, and adult and child-care programs have operated there since 2006.

The foundation’s phase two for the space, for which it has been raising money steadily, includes an indoor pool, or aquatics center, and a cultural arts center for performances and community activities.

With $3 million already raised from its fund-raising efforts, the nonprofit foundation appealed to the town earlier this spring to match that amount. The town announced on Tuesday that it would include the playhouse project in its capital budget for 2019.

There is “a significant amount of donors” who have committed to giving contributions, Susan Henkin, the foundation’s executive director, said at a town board meeting on Tuesday, but “are waiting to make sure that the foundation is close enough to its goal, at $6 million.” With the town’s decision to issue a $3 million bond in 2019, she said she anticipates that the needed additional donations will be in hand by the start of that year.

“It is a major undertaking, but frankly I don’t know that the building will ever be completed without our contribution,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “I think it will be a huge asset to the community,” said Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc.

Besides the pool, the construction will create a large, multipurpose meeting space that could be used for conventions or other meetings that would bring business to Montauk, particularly when most needed, in the off-season. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby also supported the $3 million bond, for those reasons.

Councilman Fred Overton, who was a town clerk before taking office as a councilman, recalled “the pleasure of watching this project develop” since the restoration was initially undertaken over a decade ago. “I fully support the amendment to our capital plan . . . to see it through,” he said.