New group tries to polish up Schine
Kelly Voll / The Citizen AuburnPub.com | Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010 3:00 am
AUBURN — Shirley Martinez remembers going to see movies at the Schine Theater when she was a child, and from the candy counter to the restrooms in the basement where you could weigh yourself on a scale for a penny, the details remain etched in her memory today, years after the theater closed down.
Martinez, of Auburn, and about 15 others have started a new group called Citizens for Schine and the Betterment of Downtown Auburn, Inc. that is now focusing on cleaning up the historic Schine Theater in an attempt to make it safer and possibly someday restored.
“We need to do something,” she said. “If we can do something with it for the community, it would be for the better.”
The group has its work cut out for it.
Over time, the South Street building’s art deco facade has grown dirty and the back of the building has been vandalized and used as a repository for garbage, car tires, dead trees and a shopping cart. Martinez pointed out that not only is the building becoming unsightly, but it’s also becoming dangerous.
“If there was ever a fire, it would be bad,” she said.
In addition to a fire hazard, the rubble also creates a place for unseen mischief, Martinez said.
The group incorporated in March, said chair Peter Ruzicka, of Auburn. Members started cleaning a couple weeks ago. They removed some of the garbage out from behind the theater and also gave some attention to the building’s facade.
Martinez said the city has agreed to pick up the trash from the cleanup effort as long as it’s bagged properly, while a few Vietnam War veterans have volunteered to take away some larger pieces of rubble, such as broken pallets.
“We’re trying to do it as best we can,” she said. “It’s going to take time.”
Both Martinez and Ruzicka said it will be awhile before the group can begin work inside the theater due to asbestos that is in the ceiling. Weeding, removing trash and cleaning the outside of the windows and doors will have to suffice for now.
“We want to start outside and move in,” Martinez said.
Daniel Waters said working outside and being visible raises awareness, shows that someone is devoting time to the Schine and may interest community members in joining the cause.
Martinez said the new group hopes to work alongside the Cayuga County Arts Council, which owns the Schine, to restore the once-magnificent theater, built in 1938.
“Both of our groups want to work together,” she said. “We want to be a force with a force.”
The Citizens for Schine have just been accepted as members of the arts council, Martinez added.
Ruzicka said he heard from the arts council that, should the theater’s rehabilitation go well, the Schine may become a multi-use facility with 1,000 seats.
“It’s the biggest part of the contemporary history of Auburn,” he said.
Staff writer Kelly Voll can be reached at 282-2239 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at CitizenVoll