Artists News USA

Displaced Brooklyn artists take action against landlord

Rent increases have left around 100 studio tenants homeless, says activist group

Industry City

Artists who have been displaced from their studios at Industry City, a Brooklyn real estate development, are organising against the landlord. Tamara Zahaykevich, the co-founder of the Artist Studio Affordability Project (ASAP), says that rent increases have forced out around 100 studio tenants in recent months, who in some cases were not given the option to renew their leases. The artists have since sent formal letters of complaint to the Better Business Bureau and the New York State Licensing Agency.

Zahaykevich also expressed anger at the Dedalus Foundation, which helped fund the exhibition “Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year One,” currently on view at the building complex. “I think it’s too bad they’ve chosen to spend their money this way because it’s shortsighted,” she says. “There are people here who are basically homeless.”

Phong Bui, the curator of the exhibition, says he extended an invitation to meet with Zahaykevich’s group and to include their work in the show, which they declined to accept. “I’ve been willing to try to mediate between them and Industry City,” he says. “But they weren’t interested.” Jack Flam, the president of the Dedalus Foundation, said the show has had a positive effect on the community, citing a number of free projects sponsored by the foundation during the exhibition’s run. “Many artists who have works in the exhibition will also be leading art classes for public school students,” he says.

Andrew Kimball of Jamestown Properties, which owns a stake in Industry City, said the property was willing to work with artists. “We have over 100 artists who currently lease space,” he says. “Any artist who wanted to sit down with us and negotiate a fair market rent, we’re delighted to work with them.”

Zahaykevich says that ASAP now wants to work on legislation to protect commercial renters. One idea is to push for the expansion of New York’s “80/20” programme to include commercial space. Currently, real estate developers are offered tax incentives if 20% of their space is devoted to low-income renters, but the programme is only in place for residential housing.

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