EXCLUSIVE: Beloved Ballroom Found Without Occupancy Certificate

Nearly two hours before dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Fordham students were ready to pack the now famous Rex Hall on Arthur Avenue — a tattered, yet beloved ballroom space at 602 187th Street, where students have begun hosting concerts and dances this year — the event was abruptly required to relocate and Fordham Security was swiftly blamed.

The musical event, billed on Facebook as “Blowout at the Ballroom,” was set to feature a number of on-campus and New York City-based bands. The entrance fee was set at $5, which was said to be going toward “the upkeep of this promising space.”

“We understand as little as you do as to why Fordham would want to cancel a STUDENT RUN AND FINANCED MUSICAL EVENT,” Lee Hayden, a Fordham student and one of the event’s chief organizers, said on Facebook. “We are looking for another venue for the night, if you can hose we would love you.” (The event was relocated to The Rabbit Hole on 188th and Beaumont.)

But school officials are denying that they were responsible for axing the event.

“We do not shut down businesses outside of campus, and we never make threats,” said John Carroll, Fordham’s vice president of Safety and Security, in response.

Fordham officials did discover Friday afternoon, however, that Frank Franz, the man who has rented the ballroom for the last three years as part of the Belmont Society of Arts and Culture, does not currently have a place of assembly certificate of operation for the ballroom. Such a violation makes it illegal for more than 75 people to gather in the ballroom, according to New York City regulations.

Administrators made the discovery after checking up on the space for a student group that had apparently asked school officials for permission to use the space, according to a knowledgeable administrative source.

“We obviously can’t allow our students to run programs in any spaces the city has not inspected or permitted,” the source said. But administrators were not even aware that an event was scheduled for Friday night.

Fordham alerted city officials of the occupancy violation, and Franz decided to cancel Friday’s event, apparently feeling the pressure of potential legal action. It is unclear if and when Fordham students may return to performing in “the ballroom,” as it’s become known around Rose Hill.

“This is a very long story,” Franz said, when reached by phone Friday night. He was not immediately available for further comment.

A number of student-organized concerts have been hosted in the ballroom since the space was first discovered by a group of students last December. The launch party for the latest issue of Flash magazine, an on-campus fashion publication, last December was the first Fordham event to be held in the ballroom in recent memory.

On Feb. 16, a winter formal dance was held in the ballroom space to raise money for GO! service trips to the Adirondacks, San Diego and Detroit. The suggested entrance fee was between $5 and 10. Bright Red Cardinal and The Keating Steps, two campus bands, provided the music.

In January, a “Welcome Back Show” featured several campus bands, gathered more than 200 people and raised $1,000, according to a favorable article in The Fordham Ram, which did not shed light on the space’s absent occupancy certificate.