Church Street School Honors Two Who Made Its New Home a Reality

Peter Braus, left, and Dwight Yellen speak at The Event, the Church Street School for Music and Art's annual fundraising dinner, held on March 6. Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 07, 2018

Tribeca’s Church Street School for Music and Art honored two men Tuesday night who led the school out of its financial quagmire on Warren Street and into what school director and co-founder Lisa Ecklund-Flores called “a new home full of hope and promise for the future.”

Real estate broker Peter Braus and attorney Dwight Yellen basked in accolades at the school’s annual dinner and auction fundraiser held at Tribeca Rooftop, where they were hailed for their roles in the school’s recent move—not any too soon—to 41 White St., the three-level former Flea Theater space. Burdened by an unsustainable rent of $48,000 plus monthly arrears of another $15,000 and a contentious landlord-tenant relationship,  Braus and Yellen, each in their own ways, enabled the school to not only survive, but remain in the neighborhood that has been its home for 27 years.

Peter Braus sings his praises to the Church Street School, Vegas style.

“We looked and we looked and then we looked more and all roads led to White Street,” Braus said in his speech to the gathering. Braus and his firm, Lee and Associates, represented the school in its two-year search for a new site, ending at the White Street location which, though smaller, is seen as an affordable fit for the school’s needs.

“So often in my line of work we are doing deals that while helpful to the parties that we work with don’t have much beneficial effect on the community or the world around us,” Braus said. “This is the rare instance where my experience as a real estate professional can be harnessed for the good of both my community and a group of incredible, dedicated people.”

Yellen’s relationship with Church Street School, first as a parent, then as musician, board member and legal counsel, goes back almost to the school’s beginning. He had negotiated its lease on Warren Street in 1995 and began serving on its board soon after. As counsel to Kriss & Feuerstein LLP, he and other lawyers who he had assembled helped the school in its legal battle with the landlord.

As the one who had “the unfortunate duty of primary communicator and negotiator with my previous landlord,” Ecklund-Flores told the crowd, [Dwight] put together a legal dream team and through his exquisite skills and insight not only helped usher us to our new home but managed to extricate ourselves from the previous situation [on Warren Street] with grace.”

“We were litigating on Warren Street and negotiating a lease on White Street at the same time,” recalled Yellen. “And the spirits aligned.”