PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – The Paramount Center for the Arts may reopen, but probably not under the same management. City officials are in the process of drafting a request for proposal (RFP), which could be put out as early as this week, to look for an entity to run the business.
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The Paramount Theater itself, which is owned by the city and was loaned to the Paramount Board of Directors for $1, has been secured by city officials while the process is being worked out. The board has been running the theater for more than two decades and shows were overseen by an executive director.
The Paramount board issued a statement on Oct. 4 announcing it would close the theater in order to reorganize due to financial troubles. The city had received a letter from the board days earlier asking for a two-week extension on the deadline the city had given the board to get a financial plan together, said Peekskill Council member Kathie Talbot, herself a former Paramount board member.
“That letter was the first time the city was aware that they had retained counsel,” Talbot said. “We decided that based on everything we had heard up to that point that we were going to go forward with securing the building.”
The Paramount is about $300,000 in debt, including $107,000 worth of electrical bills owed to the city, Talbot said.
“We were trying to get them to pay it off, we had a payment plan and they tried, but sometimes they could pay and sometimes they couldn’t,” Talbot said.
City officials have not seen any records of the Paramount’s accounting since the closing, Talbot said.
The Paramount Board issued a statement earlier this week through an attorney hired to represent it, Daniel R. Alcott, of the Rye based firm Dorf & Nelson LLP.
“We are gravely disappointed that the City of Peekskill took this step without communicating its intent to do so,” said Alcott in a statement released earlier this week. “Our position is that our client has certain legal rights and that the invocation of ‘self help’ methods by the municipality are inappropriate and not legal. Our client intends to assert all of its legal rights with regard to the pending matter.”
Alcott said Wednesday that the economic conditions had been a challenge for the Paramount management and that the board saw restructuring with a new lease structure as a solution.
“The city took that to mean that they were abandoning the property and that’s not the case,” Alcott said. “The board felt a little blindsided by the city’s actions.”
Alcott said the board owed money to bank debt, utilities and ticket refunds, but declined to comment on exact amounts. He said the board would be meeting with the attorney general’s office soon to ensure that the nonprofit’s assets, such as equipment, will be protected. The board wanted what was best for the Paramount, he said.
“We don’t want to control it or hold onto it if someone else can do it better,” Alcott said. “At this point it’s unclear what ability we’ll have to drive this process.”