DDC Senior Project Manager Antoine Hitti at the Bille Holliday Theatre
NYC DDC DDC Senior Project Manager Antoine Hitti at the Bille Holliday Theatre

A $4.1 million renovation and expansion of the historic Billie Holiday Theatre at Restoration Plaza in Bedford-Stuyvesant is on target to be completed this Spring, announced the New York City Department of Design Construction (DDC) today, which is managing the project for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA).

The project will modernize the theatre and improve ADA accessibility, visibility, and acoustics while increasing capacity by 12 seats to fit 200 audience members. All new seating is being installed, along with new lighting and stage rigging with advanced fire suppression systems. New state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment will connect to a brand new control room being built to optimize the theatre experience for audiences. The stage is also being extended by more than two feet to provide additional performance space.

“The Billie Holiday Theatre has provided opportunities for community engagement and personal growth for over 45 years, and we are proud to work with our partners at Cultural Affairs to fully modernize the theatre,” says DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “Our aim is to deliver to the community a theatre they can take pride in for generations to come.”

"The Billie Holiday Theatre has been a platform that has presented world-class theater for the community of Brooklyn and beyond for 45 years" says Dr. Indira Etwaroo, Executive Director, Billie Holiday Theatre. "Working with the DDC team, a team that has brought extraordinary enthusiasm and expertise to this project, has been deeply gratifying. The renovation of this historic destination, a destination formerly led by theater pioneer Marjorie Moon for 42-years, gives us a new opportunity to build on that legacy and also present dance and music concerts, large talks, and film screenings right here in the epicenter of Black culture in the U.S."

Founded in 1972 by the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the Billie Holiday Theatre hosts performances as well as local events, serving approximately 15,000 people annually. Eponymously named for the famous American jazz singer, its stage has featured prominent African American and Caribbean actors and entertainers including Smokey Robinson and Samuel L. Jackson.

The reconstruction of the theatre extended backstage and to the theatre’s basement, adding a green room and new dressing rooms. Extensive improvements are being made to the theatre’s infrastructure, including new boilers and several new air conditioning units that work with the building’s existing geothermal system to use the earth’s natural cooling powers to reduce energy consumption and make the theatre more environmentally sustainable. A new connection was installed to the City water main in the street for the advanced standalone fire suppression system.

The project is being overseen by DDC Senior Project Manager Antoine Hitti, who has been with DDC since the agency started in 1996. The construction veteran has completed projects at many of the City’s most prominent cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center, The Public Theatre on Lafayette Street, New York City Center, and the American Museum of Natural History.

“I enjoy working on cultural projects because they offer immense educational opportunities,” says Hitti. “The Billie Holiday Theatre creates a cultural center for the neighborhood, has the potential to enrich the culture of the community and brings fresh life and blood to the area.”

A native of Beirut, Lebanon, Hitti earned a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in Gainesville and did advanced research in in Civil Engineering at Lehigh University. He moved to New York City in the early 1980s, calling Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens his home at various times before finally settling in Glen Ridge, NJ.

“I like to see construction from all aspects and it’s a pleasure to work with diverse clients who can offer new challenges,” he says. “It will be great to present this new theatre to the community this Spring.”