Artist Evictions Update
Spring is here and, as the rats leave the buildings of Brooklyn and evicted tenants return to their homes on Water Street after seven weeks of limbo, the situation for thousands of residents of illegally converted commercial lofts in Brooklyn is starting to look brighter. This is not only because longer days and the rise in temperature and the lengthening of daylight hours has lessened the effects of either prohibitively expensive or landlord-cut electricity or gas supplies, but also because community organization has opened up a dialogue between live-work tenants and city and state politicians. A strong indication of the impact of said dialogue is the formation of an Artists’ Space Needs Task Force by Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden.
“Long-time residents who are the backbone of Brooklyn’s arts communities like Red Hook, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Fort Greene are facing real estate pressures that jeopardize their ability to pursue their art and in some cases to remain in Brooklyn,” said Borough President Howard Golden at a March 21st press conference at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Society. He stressed that “if Brooklyn wishes to retain the vibrancy of its arts community then their concerns need to be carefully considered and addressed.” Golden made his comments as he introduced the members of the planning task force formed in response to the results of a survey distributed last spring to artists living and working in Brooklyn. The results of the survey indicate what Golden termed a “growing space crisis in the arts community.” A pie chart wouldn’t be necessary for most New York residents to guess that among the most serious concerns are rent increases (almost 50 percent since 1990), eviction, and skyrocketing commercial leases for work-only spaces.
Golden has his staff see this crisis as one that not only effects individual artists or artist communities, but also the over-all quality of life for borough residents. We have grown accustomed to the economic and social stimulation of Brooklyn’s reputation as a “thriving arts center where visual art, dance, music, and literary arts are a part of our everyday life,” noted Deputy Borough President Gadson. Those selected for Goldens’s task force are from arts organizations, housing organizations, and arts services organizations throughout Brooklyn. The members will consider the housing issues faced by artists living in Brooklyn and discuss strategies to preserve and develop affordable artists’ housing. They plan to study communities locally and nationally where the arts have not only flourished but also found stability because their housing and studio needs have been creatively and legally met.
Meanwhile, in Albany this past March, Assembly Housing Committee Chair Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg) delivered on his promise to push legislation extending loft law coverage into Brooklyn through the Assembly. In late March, Sen. Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan) introduced the bills in the state Senate, where passage will be much more difficult given that the more conservative (and developer-friendly) Republicans form the majority. The Giuliani Administration is also floating its own proposal to expand protections for Brooklyn loft tenants, but in exchange, the city Loft Board would be dismantled. Both Lopez and the LiveWork Coalition have adopted a cautiously optimistic tone regarding Giuliani’s entry into the controversy, Goodman, however, flatly told the Daily News that the “city’s law will not help loft tenants at all. It is basically an eviction bill.” It is helpful for all concerned parties to remember Borough President Golden’s quip: “The biggest threat to the arts in Brooklyn has been Giuliani.”
Contact the Brooklyn LiveWork Coalition at www.brooklynlivework.org
ZOE ALSOP is a journalist residing in Kenya. She reported for the Associated Press in Bogota.
The Brooklyn Presence at SXSWBy Nic Yeager
MAY 2022 | Film
Between March 11 and 20, four Brooklyn-based short films screened at SXSW, each shot in Brooklyn and made by and featuring Brooklynites. SXSW is known for celebrating innovation in tech and education, and these projects offer their own kind of innovation: namely, an irreplaceable artistic ingenuity that flows out of this borough.
Monsoon Wedding Makes Its Way to BrooklynBy Allison Considine
MAY 2023 | Theater
In 2006, when director Mira Nairs agent suggested she adapt her Indian dramedy Monsoon Wedding into a musical, she felt like a penny dropped. The lauded film, now part of the Criterion Collection, has music in its bones, Nair said. Indeed, the colorful, sprawling family drama is fit for the stage.
79. (Brooklyn Navy Yard, Columbia County)
NOV 2021 | The Miraculous
An artist in his mid-30s living in New York and working in a 300-square-foot studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, finds himself consumed by frustration and anger. Although he is having exhibitions, after the shows close his paintings inevitably return to his studio, unsold. Hes not sure he wants to go on being an artist. A psychiatrist he consults helps him to understand that his anger revolves around his feelings about race, class and entitlement. Eventually the psychiatrist recommends that he begin working with a physical trainer, who has him start boxing and working out with a punching bag. Around the same time the artist, who is half-Choctaw and half-Cherokee, has been meeting with traditional Native American artists who tell him how the practices of dancing, drumming and beading have saved their lives. These experiences lead him to make a breakthrough in his work. Instead of focusing on painting, he begins to adorn Everlast vinyl punching bags like those he has been using at the boxing gym in extravagant styles inspired by Native American beadwork, pop culture, and everyday life. Along with beads, he adds tassels, sequins, brass and steel studs, yarn, chains, and sundry items. Some of the bags feature beaded texts quoting everyone from Simone de Beauvoir to Public Enemy.
36. The 1960s, BrooklynBy Raphael Rubinstein
FEB 2023 | The Miraculous
Its the mid-1960s in Bedford-Stuyvesant where some 15 or 20 young men get into the habit of harmonizing together after pick-up basketball games. One of them, an aspiring musician who is supporting himself as an elevator operator, notices some talented voices in the crowd, so one night he invites everyone back to his apartment to rehearse, hoping for something interesting to emerge.