Rochester mayor casts Geva Theatre director as villain

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has called out Mark Cuddy, the artistic director of Geva Theatre, for comments made during a news conference calling for an impact study on a proposed downtown performing arts center.

Parcel 5 is where the Rochester Broadway Theatre League plans to build the center, with an estimated $130 million price tag.

Geva, however, sent a memo to Rochester City Council asking for further studies on the proposal for the site on East Main Street.

The theatre company raised concerns about the possible impact on existing venues in the city, non-profit theaters, and jobs within the artist community.

When the city initially responded, a spokesperson called Cuddy's remarks "political." It was Warren herself who said on Wednesday that Cuddy needs to apologize for this quote about her, made on Monday, about her effort to, as Cuddy put it, "brand Rochester as the 'City of the Arts.'"

"She is quoted as saying, 'Syracuse is a college sports town, Buffalo has pro teams, we are the City of the Arts and we have to have a venue that gives us that title. End quote. We find that thinking to be naïve at best."

"I think the artistic director actually owes me an apology, and when I say that, I'm talking about the fact that he called – men calling women naïve this day and age I think is wrong and I think that we need to hold him accountable for that," said Warren, D-Rochester.

"We can agree to disagree on an approach, but to use language that is demeaning, I think is wrong and I think he is wrong for it and I'm not going to address any of his comments because of it."

In response to the mayor's comments, Geva issued the following statement, saying in part:

"Mark Cuddy, in his remarks on Monday afternoon that are published in written form, did not call the Mayor “naïve." We are sorry that the Mayor took it that way. We stand by our statement that we find building a 3,000-seat theater on Parcel 5 to be the thing that makes us the City of the Arts to be flawed. We are happy to join the City’s administration in a new discussion about how best to support our thriving arts & cultural community."

Rochester City Council will host a community forum Thursday at 5:30 p.m. for anyone to weigh-in on the performing arts center/retail/residential project.

The parcel itself is the last remaining unused portion of the Midtown footprint, and while the contentious issue of what to build there has played out, the space itself has served as a concert venue and impromptu park.

Rochester native and Paychex founder Tom Golisano pledged to donate $25 million to the performing arts center project. This past spring, RBTL leaders said the Golisano Center for the Performing Arts will book performances a minimum of 180 nights in a given year, and will generate an economic impact of $55.5 million.

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