Retro Files: L.E.S. AmphitheaterAuthor: Control , Date Posted: 2005-10-27 18:17:48
Presented below is the original text of our original visit to this spot, circa approximately 1998. Since the time of this write up and the building's untimely demise, we revisited this spot on several occasions - some quite drunken and crazy, others a lot more laid back.
The LES Amphitheater was a location made famous by the graffiti cult classic movie 'Wild Style". It fell into disrepair, likely during the financial crisis of the 1970s, and lived on as an abandoned, battered building all the way up until 2001. Post 9/11 and during the week of Dec.10, a very stupid made-for-TV special was created centering on the rebuilding (read: destruction of) this location as some happy american 'we're rebuilding NYC' propaganda material. About the only good thing to come out of that show was the fact that Rasta's Man with the Spider's hands, Bebo LES, got mad fame with his tag shown all over the building throughout the TV show.
Today, nothing is left but the stage, an arch overhead, and the restored seating area.
We humbly submit this file as a history of what once was.
Occasionally, we head off on missions with
no target in mind. 2 out of 3 of these trips will yield something worth exploring. This was one such evening.
We arrived in a park along the east right in Manhattan, and proceeded south below the williamsburg bridge. Here we found an accessible fenced in area with trailers and access to the base of the bridge. The trailers were either of a flatbed variety or locked up tight with construction equipment, making them rather useless. The base structure of the bridge provided a space for practicing climbing techniques, etc.
Eventually we moved further south, wrapping around a huge abandoned structure. Only as we came in off the river to the front of the structure did it become apparent that it was a large abandoned amphitheater. It was fenced in pretty well, wire along the back side and huge iron gating along the front. We were not prepared with wire clipping tools, and climbing did not seem a plausible option given the fences shakey, unstable nature. Nevertheless, we found a way to curmvent the spike-topped iron gating, carefully making our way down the audience rows to the stage. Large craters and holes lined the cement and tar in the seating area and just in front of the stage.
Entering the structure could not be simpler: you walk right in from the middle of the stage. You can also climb the face of the building rather easily, if so inclined. While coated in graffiti, there were no homeless or menacing people present. Beyond the stage lays a large 2 story structure overlooking the river. It is a vast open space with no rooms. To the sides there may have been small rooms and access to a basement which may lay beneath the stage. However, we did not venture to far in given our lack of flashlights on this evening.
Getting into this site proved by far easier than exiting. When we did make our exit, it was directly into a gathering of joint smoking kids from the ghetto across the street. They just looked at us as if we were insane, until a bold one asked Rabbit for a light, to which she scared his pants off by using some flash paper. That broke the ice enough for us to stay and chat awhile with them. Further evidence that you can be outnumbered 20 to 2 and come away just fine, so long as one of the 2 has a certain 2 something's that the potential opponent will stare and drool at.