The exclamatory independent news program Democracy Now! won’t be broadcasting out of a Chinatown firehouse for much longer.
According to city records, the left-leaning TV/radio group (Newt Gingrich once told co-host/founder Amy Goodman that he warned his mother not to speak to reporters because of people like her) have paid $6 million for a raw loft at 217 West 25th Street.
But the Sixth Avenue space was massively expensive for DN!, which has the lovably homespun feel of an angry teenager’s basement public access show—though it’s broadcast on 650 TV and radio stations. So they put no money down, records show, taking out a $6 million mortgage paid for by the literary Lannan Foundation, run by J. Patrick Lannan Jr.
“Because we were so desperate,” development director Karen Ranucci told me, “they were so generous.”
Still, they’ll have to repay the loan. “We are so in debt–and that’s why we’re having a concert!” Their Feb. 20 gala will feature Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Jackson Browne, plus playwrights Wally Shawn (he lives nearby!) and Sarah Jones. “What better way to earn some money,” Ms. Ranucci said, “than to have Willie Nelson drive across the country?” So true.
Tickets range from $200 to $20,000–for a premier table for 10, which includes “dinner with Willie Nelson and all these characters.”
But DN! doen’t necessarily want to leave its firehouse space on Lafayette Street, which it’s been renting from the Downtown Community Television Center. “They needed their space, so we’re leaving," Ms. Ranucci said about DCTC, "the sooner for them that we could find a place, the better.”
Besides the $6 million purchase price, building offices and an actual TV studio in the loft runs at least $2 million. “We’re trying to get as much used equipment as possible," Ms. Ranucci said. Plus, the loft will have a classroom for training future journalists. “We work with interns now,” she said, “but we’re all sitting on each other’s laps. We’re crushed in our current digs.”