Friday, December 14th, 2018

Are You Being Priced Out? Worth Fighting For: New York Lofts & Artists

Published on April 23, 2012 by   ·   No Comments Pin It

Writer, lawyer, musician, bon vivant, smartest person we know, and man-about-town Guy Lesser shares some thoughts on the changing face of loft living in NYC;

As anyone who’s read Bleak House will know, the machinery of the law sometimes turns slowly, and in some instances very very very slowly.

In June 2010, after 27 years of effort, “the Loft Law” of New York City was renewed, and its rudimentary protections for loft residents in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx were at long last extended from the small and ever dwindling artist’s community of Soho and Tribecca to a new generation– myself included.
City Hall was not exactly thrilled, and did their best to convince the Governor to veto it. Then having failed at that, for the past two years, with a little help from their friends among more predatory building owners (especially those who would rather conduct their operations in the shadows, outside the law), efforts have continued   to delay, hobble, and quietly thwart the new loft law, however and whenever possible. This, it would seem, in the hope that perhaps the old industrial buildings that currently provide home to mostly middle class residential occupants, who with years of “sweat equity” have brought their building and neighborhoods back from the dead, making them safe, and even sometimes fashionable, can be swiftly and summarily shown the door.  And their buildings either razed for new luxury highrises or converted into pricey condominiums at much greater profit.  An old New York story, to be sure.
In any event, in much the spirit of 30 years ago, this creative community of New Yorkers isn’t taking it lying down. And many of us who live in lofts and have the most at stake– win or lose– have gradually begun to organize (taking a page out of the 1970s), to gain a voice in what happens next, and to do all we can to assure that the promise of the loft law is fulfilled.
Thus, over the past months we’ve started to attend the hearings of the Loft Board as it makes new rules to implement the new law; begun to reach out to the many thousands of loft residents who have no idea there even is a new law; and to talk to our legislators in Albany about fixing some of the more worrying omissions  and oversights that slipped by (or were slipped in) the 2010 law before their potential for abuse were fully understood.
This coming Tuesday evening at 7pm, YOU could do a lot to help, simply by attending a gathering that has been organized by Assemblyman Vito Lopez at a Bushwick Brooklyn Church, Our Lady of Pompeii. Like any party, if only a few of the same old faces turn up, none of the politicians who plan to be there are going to be much impressed. And chances are we’ll be shuffled to the bottom of their priorities. But on the other hand, if our friends come out in force, it might not be the dawning of Aquarius, exactly. But it will be a very different story, looking ahead.
The fact is, for the vibrant new neighbors of Williamsburg and Bushwick, DUMBO, and Red Hook, (as well as burgeoning new communities elsewhere like the South Bronx and LIC) to keep their heterogeneous character and healthy mix of residents (not to mention their fine old buildings unmolested)– as well the diverse range of newly flourishing wholly independent small businesses that we support  (vegan restaurants and clothing shops, bike builders, hat makers, fashion designers and all else at the opposite pole from Duane Reed, MacDonalds and Walmart), the professional political classes of New York City and New York State need to know that YOU care. And need to be shown that what they do or fail to do will be noticed and form at least some part of the calculus of decision for many many city voters in November.
So, if you possibly can, please come to:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 7:00 PM
Our Lady of Pompeii – Community Room
225 Seigel Street  (between Bushwick Ave + White St.)
Bushwick, Brooklyn
——–> near the L train Morgan Ave stop <———–

The Lady of Pompeii is not an effortlessly easy place to get to, nor is its community room attractive in any way. You doubtless have other urgent matters on your agenda, and more interesting things to do that evening. And certainly no one that I know will find much pleasure in longwinded self-congratulatory speeches by local politicians or in listening to bureaucrats evade the earnest questions of activists and stakeholders.
On the other hand, it is far less onerous than standing on a picket line in the dead of winter, performing at a benefit, or having to deal with hysterical friends who’ve suddenly found themselves temporarily homeless after being unceremoniously ejected from their homes by firemen or city marshalls (as some of you may remember refers to me a few years back). Which is to say this Tuesday offers a very valuable ounce of potentially helpful preventative medicine– and if we make a strong showing with 500 or more guests actually turning up, everything we are attempting to do will probably be rather easier, and what we say will probably be listened to rather more attentively.
Accordingly, I am sorry to extend this invitation. But at least I can assure you that you will not be asked to speak, perform, donate money, pose for photographers, or publicly endorse anything or anyone.
Thank you.

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