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It's a stab in the back to the entire theater community.

It's a breaking of faith with the actors, directors, playwrights and stagehands who literally risked their lives to help keep downtown Buffalo alive at night when it was considered dangerous to walk there.

It's interesting that it was only when artistic director Neal Radice asked for keys to get into the Main Street entrance of the former Theater District Police Station building - where his Alleyway Theater is located - that he forced out the information that our city officials were secretly contemplating selling the building.

They say they don't know who the prospective buyer is. If you believe that, I'll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge - or if you prefer, the Peace Bridge.

With a large part of our entire community concerned about fairness, there can be no justifiable reason to insist on concealing the name of the prospective buyer - unless his name is such that it might set off an even stronger reaction in this community against selling him the building for his secret purpose. Could it be to install one of those chain drugstores?

The city's political leaders made an implied agreement with the theater community when they asked us to develop live theaters in downtown Buffalo - to create a theater district, to put on plays that would bring people from the suburbs back into the city, to create people traffic at night on our downtown streets and to contribute to the revival of downtown - to save our city.

We delivered. We brought people downtown to see the plays. At the outset, we paid a heavy price.

We emerged from the theaters after rehearsals or after audiences had gone home. Our actors, actresses and stagehands were mugged, robbed and attacked by rapists. Our cars broken were into and/or stolen. We had to leave the theater in groups when we went to our cars in order to protect ourselves.

Our city officials at the outset indicated an intention to carry out their part of the implied agreement.

They signed a 25-year lease with Radice to operate the Alleyway Theater in the former Police Station building. They told him he could draw up plans for his theater to occupy the whole building.

Alleyway Theater has already spent a quarter of a million dollars creating a new design for the theater and repairing the building.

We believe most citizens in Western New York will support us, insisting that our city's political leaders carry out their obligation inherent in the implied agreement they made with us.

The time is now for our political leaders to tell that mystery buyer that they are ethically bound to stand by their fully implied agreement with Alleyway Theater, which has morally earned the right to proceed with its plans in the building.

EMANUEL FRIED, a playwright and longtime labor activist, lives in Buffalo.

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