[Updated] Artists Face Losing Their Studios in Industry City, Again

by Whitney Kimball on December 8, 2014 · 3 comments Newswire

Rendering of Industry City from its website's "Vision" page

Rendering of Industry City from its website’s “Vision” page

[UPDATE: Industry City sent out an email to artists saying the operational expense bill was made in error]

“Everybody’s going to have to work in their basement,” artist and Hunter College professor Benjamin King concluded over the phone this morning. King is just one of many artists facing the prospect of leaving his studio, after being hit with a massive year-end hidden fee for his studio in Sunset Park’s Industry City warehouses. An unforeseen “operational expense bill” will cost King $2,000 on his 300 square-foot space. “I have two kids and a third on the way,” he added. “That Industry City doing this right before the holidays is, I think, particularly insidious.”

Artist Darina Karpov is one of many others facing a surprise “operational expense”, $980 for a space with rent of $910. “When I was signing the lease, I was assured [by a Lease Administrator] it would never go over $250. That the operating charge is a ‘formality.’ We were told that it would only cover things like fixing the roof, and staff.” Karpov suspects that tenants are being charged for more than just standard upkeep. “They’re holding all these corporate events and parties, so they have more staff. They’re hiring union people so it’s a lot more for the payroll.”

A breakdown of the 2013 expenses included in tenants’ leases list $574,150 for “payroll & related costs”, and the combined maintenance, supplies, and repair fees come to $652,386. In total, the operating expenses come to nearly $1.5 million. Karpov and King both claim that everyone they’ve spoken to from their building on 36th street– the flagship building for the Industry City redevelopment project– has been hit with the same fees.

The uptick in rent hikes began in 2013 when Jamestown Properties, Belvedere Capital, and Angelo Gordon bought a 49% share in Industry City. This established the vision of Andrew Kimball, the director of innovation economy initiatives and Industry City CEO, and the man behind the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Chelsea Market. According to the Wall Street Journal, developers had spent a total of $100 million on the property as of July; additionally, the de Blasio administration plans to subsidize $100 million in renovations.

Industry City’s website now advertises family-friendly outdoor dance parties and a “food hall” including a patisserie, bubble tea, and an organic shop. It’s a far cry from the industrial warehouses which, until recently, have mainly hosted artist studios and blue collar manufacturing businesses. As advertised on the site, the space “is quickly becoming the city’s most dynamic destination for designers, innovators, start-ups, manufacturers and artists.” At the time of this writing, Industry City has not returned our request for comment.

Last year, Industry City became a flashpoint among the arts community immediately after it raised rents, forcing at least fifty artists to leave. Ironically, months after the raises, the warehouse held a massive exhibition “Surviving Sandy”, in honor of artists who lost their studios in Hurricane Sandy. The show, curated by Brooklyn Rail editor Phong Bui, received rave reviews from Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith. This combination of events and lack of critical response led to the formation of ASAP, the Artist Studio Affordability Project, a group of artists who are working to build a larger coalition of artists and working class neighbors who are losing space. [Disclaimer: I’m a member.]

Tenants are currently working on a petition. King plans to reach out to local manufacturing workers in an effort to build a larger contingency for people facing the same issues. Other than that, he expects to leave his studio within the year.

“In many ways, it’s the same old story. Personally, I see my future upstate, but still showing my work in New York. Even if I made less money, I could do so much more; I could get so much more space, and more room in thinking and creating.” His plan resonates with yesterday’s announcement that the DUMBO-based performance venue, Galapagos Art Space, plans to leave New York because of rising rents. They’re starting over in Detroit, where younger artists are moving instead.


tony December 9, 2014 at 1:21 am

http://shifter-magazine.com/soskolne_vacant_lot this article from shifter is pretty insightful on giving a background to industry city

Christine Soccio December 9, 2014 at 10:01 am

Terrible. There will be space in my building in NJ if anyone is getting pushed out.

Ben Bee December 13, 2014 at 8:51 pm

If anyone is considering the move upstate, I suggest taking a couple looks at Newburgh. We dig it.

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