Over 100 Artists and Small Businesses Forced Out of Gowanus Buildings

by Paddy Johnson on October 2, 2015 · 1 comment Newswire

Photo: Kate Leonova for PropertyShark

Photo: Kate Leonova for PropertyShark

Over 100 Gowanus-based artists and small businesses are the latest victims of New York’s rampant developer-led gentrification. The newest displacement involves three adjacent buildings at 94 and 98 9th street, and 75 and 75A 10th Street and possibly more. Many artists and businesses have been told they must vacate as early as October 31st.

That’s no good for the tenants. “I’ve only been here for four months.” artist Karen Heagle told me, speaking of her studio at 75 10th street. “I have been in the New York for 25 years and that is the fastest I’ve been removed from a studio.” Prior to that Heagle was in Industry City, a studio building she moved into in 2010. But, rents were raised and she said she no longer felt welcomed there. In June she moved to Gowanus.

Heagle, like many I spoke to in the building signed a sublease agreement. “I was under the impression I would be there longer than this.” She told me. “There was a presumed longevity to the thing.”

That impression was shared by many, and has lead to significant issues. “People invest more than they would otherwise” artist Liz Insogna explained. She too is being forced to vacate the 75 street building. “They make lofts for their paintings. There’s also a woodshop on our floor. You can’t close a woodshop in a month. For people like us, who aren’t in the middle of production, it’s disruptive but not devastating—for them, it’s scary bad.”

The lease situation changed for tenants this spring when 8112–8124 18th Ave Realty Corp, Maserati Realty LLC, and Ribellino Family Limited Partnership, entered into new agreement acting “jointly and severally, as Landlord,” and Eli Hamway’s CH Gowanus LLC, as tenant. According to Hyperallergic, the lease, effective April 1, 2015 is for approximately 101 years and six months and worth $21.2 million. What’s more, there are more buildings in the lease named that have may also be affected. An “entire lot” — at 124 9th Street is listed as a property under the agreement in addition to the other buildings.

Edward Colley, a carpenter, bar owner and now former leaseholder at the 75 10th street building told me he was given no advance warning that the landlord might change. But “nothing [the new management] did was illegal” he told me referring to the new management’s decision to evict. 15 years ago, when he first signed the lease, the document contained a clause that said if the building was purchased the new owners could dissolve the pre-existing lease.  That’s what happened. I went into negotiations with them and I put up a good fight.” he said. “I really wanted to create an environment where people could rent and feel safe and stable.” But the landlord had different ideas for the property. “They seem to be planning on gutting the building.”

Exactly what’s in store for the property is unclear. Eli Hamway could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, displaced businesses and artists are focusing on finding new spaces. Andrej Urem, who runs a candle shop called AU Collection in the 75 10th street building told me he’d organized with a group of 35 to 40 people and was able to secure a net lease for $2 per square foot in Sunset Park. “We got a great price,” he told me.

But he also noted that not everyone has been so lucky. When I reached out to Abby Subak, the director of Arts Gowanus, she told me that Gowanus Open Studios, which opens two weeks from now, has only one artist registered from 75 10th street, as opposed to the nine that signed up last year.  “I also feel like the people who are looking for spaces are not finding comparable spaces in Gowanus.” she said. That observation was backed up with my own conversations with artists, none of whom had found new spaces, let alone ones in Gowanus.

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