By Becky Bratu
This spring, Mike Kunitzky opened LaunchPad in a building he bought three years ago on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights.
An amateur photographer and self-professed art aficionado, Kunitzky describes LaunchPad on its website as “a creative gathering place focused on the arts, community programs, technology, and anything else that captures the imagination.” Anyone can come in to 721 Franklin Ave. and reserve the space for a group meeting or an activity, participate in one of the free yoga classes offered every week, or just sit in one of LaunchPad’s big chairs and read one of the many books available. And everything is free of charge.
But Crown Heights residents were skeptical of the new addition to the increasingly popular Franklin Avenue. Some feared hidden fees, others a covert political or religious agenda. “Some people would come in right away,” Kunitzky said, “and some people, you know, would have to pass by the window three, or four, or five or 10 times before they would get up the courage, or the nerve, or the interest to come in and say ‘What are you guys doing in here?'”
Part community center, part art gallery, LaunchPad is a privately funded operation. Monthly costs run up to about $3,000 and include mortgage payments and utility bills. Kunitzky pays the bills out of his pocket and will continue to do so until LaunchPad is accredited as a not-for-profit organization and he can start applying for grants.
This month LaunchPad is hosting five events in collaboration with the New York Foundation for the Arts, including a month-long exhibition. Peter Cobb, a foundation program officer, said Kunitzky and LaunchPad were essential in getting the festival off the ground.
Watch the audio slideshow to hear Kunitzky speak about LaunchPad and his non-existent business model.