Cora Cahan, a key figure in the transformation of Times Square from porn wasteland to New York’s premiere family-friendly tourist destination, will step down next year from her position as founding President and CEO of the nonprofit New 42nd Street organization.
Her departure, set for June 2019, was announced by Fiona Rudin, The New 42nd Street’s board chairman Fiona Rudin.
“It has been a privilege as well as a challenge to take part in the transformation of the heart of the City for the past 28 years,” Cahan said. “I learned so much finding ways to be inventive about what is possible to achieve here. There is a great deal more that The New 42nd Street can accomplish in the future, and I look forward to seeing the organization continue to thrive under new leadership.”
“The revitalization of 42nd Street was seen by many as an impossible dream in 1990,” said Rudin, “but Cora Cahan’s smarts, acumen and moxie sparked a period of enormous change at the Crossroads of the World. Cora is a personal hero of mine for her strong backbone and unwavering vision that always assure victory in the face of adversity. Her impact on the City will continue to be felt by generations of New Yorkers.”
Under Cahan’s direction, the organization set out on a mission to transform 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues from porn houses and dilapidated buildings to the hub of a revitalized theater district. The street now boasts seven renovated historic Broadway theaters: the Apollo, Empire, Lyric, Liberty, Selwyn, Times Square and Victory.
“The timing of my decision is no coincidence,” Cahan said in statement. “When we forged this organization from a combination of good intentions and strong will, buttressed by the beautiful if decrepit theaters that were there to be reborn, I had no notion of the level of success we would ultimately achieve. With all seven historic theaters now set up for long-term use, this feels like the exact right time for me to pass the baton and watch the organization that has been my professional home for these many years as it grows into its next phase.”
Cahan was the sole employee of the New 42nd Street at its inception, with a budget of under $1 million. Currently, the nonprofit organization has a full-time staff of 100 and a $19 million budget.
Honorary Chairman Marian Heiskell, who led the organization’s board from its founding until 2012, said in a statement that in 1990, “When we began, the board wondered how we could prove that change was possible on the blighted block. Cora came to us with one risky but brilliant idea after another – first to create a theater for the City’s kids to launch the street’s revitalization, and then to construct a building filled with beautiful practical rehearsal studios dedicated to the City’s performing artists — all we had to do is say yes and watch Cora make it happen.”
Cahan’s accomplishments listed by the organization in announcing her departure include:
• Created and led a completely new nonprofit organization charged with reclaiming 42nd Street from a desolate and barren landscape by reclaiming and restoring the block’s historic theaters for commercial and nonprofit use.
• Led the invention of a unique and nonprofit model in which income from The New 42nd Street’s tenants helps to support the activities of the performing arts and education activities of the organization.
• Re-established 42nd Street as a desirable destination for all New Yorkers and visitors with a distinct identity that has a spontaneous, positive vitality on the street strengthening New York City’s place as the country’s premier entertainment city and reinforcing the area’s role as the “Crossroads of the World.”
• Facilitated the creation of 4,500 legitimate theater seats on 42nd Street where there were previously none by securing the leases of all the theaters under the jurisdiction of The New 42nd Street including the Apollo and Lyric Theaters (aka The Lyric, home to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and the Selwyn (aka The American Airlines Theatre, operated by Roundabout Theatre Company). Leased the Liberty and Empire theaters to Forest City where Madame Tussaud’s and the AMC Theaters are located.
• Launched the revitalization of 42nd Street with the establishment of The New Victory Theater, the City’s first and only year-round theater devoted to kids and families in the City’s oldest operating theater.
• Built and developed the New 42nd Street Studios, the City’s foremost state-of-the-art nonprofit rehearsal studio theater/office complex and The Duke on 42nd Street.