Wednesday, January 23, 2008

475 Kent: Confusion, Anger & Calls to Allow Residents Back

[Photo courtesy of jaredswafford/flickr]

The controversy continues over 475 Kent Avenue, whose residents were ordered out on Sunday night--one of the winter's coldest--because of an illegal matzo factory and stored grain in the basement as well as a raft of fire code violations. Yesterday, Council Member David Yassky sent out an email with a statement calling on the city to allow the 150 residents the city displaced back into their homes as quickly as possible. "This is terrific hardship for those turned out of their homes, and a fast resolution to this situation is absolutely necessary," Mr. Yassky's statement said. "During the holiday season in 2000, the City forced tenants in DUMBO out of their homes because they lived in non-residential loft spaces. As a result of public outcry, the Administration pledged not to evict residents of illegal lofts spaces in the future. However, this is precisely what happened over the weekend."

The Council Member acknowledged "real safety concerns regarding 475 Kent Ave" but called on the city to allow residents "back into their homes as quickly as possible." He said that once the "explosive grain" was removed the city should allow residents back. "The City has stated that the building will not house tenants until there is a full Residential Certificate of Occupancy-- this can take months, and is entirely unacceptable, in addition to seeming to be a policy reversal," the statement said.

Mr. Yassky suggested that "if the City is implementing a policy of making homeless citizens out of loft residents, that is very dangerous indeed."

Later in the day, Mr. Yassky put up a post at 475 Kent's new website, detailing the situation as of yesterday evening. As it turned out, the city didn't allow anyone back into the building, but says people can go back after the "grain hazard" is removed tomorrow. The city provided Mr. Yassky with a "fact sheet" that says, among other things:
§ No occupancy will be allowed until extensive modifications are made to the building to make it safe and habitable.

§ Commercial occupancy - Commercial occupants will not be able to reoccupy their places of business until such time that all violations have been corrected.

§ Residential occupancy - Filing, by owner, for conversion to a residential building status will be necessary.
In the meantime, there is rampant speculation about why the evictions took place, with many people suggesting that a desire to convert the building to condos or to thwart rent control is behind it. A complaint to the Department of Buildings on January 19 about a defective sidewalk shed prompted an inspection that led to the evictions. (That such a complaint would be investigated within 48 hours is rather extraordinary in and of itself.)

An email we got yesterday afternoon from one of the 60 people that had expected to be be allowed into the building to retrieve belongings expressed deep anger over the continued handling of the situations. Residents had been promised access to the building from 10AM-4PM and were, instead, still out in the cold waiting in early afternoon. The subject line of the email we got was "Total Fucking Clusterfuck at 475 Kent." It said: "it's a mess. the city (FDNY, NYPD, OEM) should be ashamed of themselves. i have never seen such piss poor organization or execution in my life. at this rate, it will take weeks or months for people to remove their belongings."

The last evacuation of a loft building was of one belonging to Josh Guttman (the Greenpoint Terminal Market landlord) in Dumbo during the Giuliani Administration. The public outcry over that situation led to a halt to such evictions by the city.

Related Stories:
Evicted Residents Don't Know If They Can Ever Return [amNY]
Residents Might Be Allowed Back for Belongings on Thursday [NY1]
475 Kent Evacuation Paving the Way for Condos [Gothamist]
'Commune of Creative Types' in the Burg is Emptied Out [Brownstoner]



Anonymous Anonymous said...

unfortunately, I feel, that these world famous photographers and the other squatters in this fine building will have to start paying rent like the rest of us. This building will go to the highest bidder. With views like that? No one cares about artists...It is a sad situation, but, money talks.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about 1717 Troutman in Ridgewood? That eviction left 220 people homeless last october with little over an hour's notice to vacate. none of those residents have seen a cent of their deposits or un-lived rent back, and i doubt they will.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Respectfully to commenter #1, um, we do pay rent.
The residents at 1717 Troutman have been incredibly supportive to the 475ers; they have given advice and support especially in terms of working with city agencies. We also heard from another person whose Landlord has used a legitimate FDNY vacate order to keep the building empty for a quick sell. These kind of tactics are clearly affecting many people throughout the city. Even though this situation sucks for everyone, hopefully these events can serve as a catalyst for organization by the arts and live/work communities in NYC.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "start paying rent" was a figure of speech. Rent in legal spaces, OK?

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1717 Troutman was handled poorly, I understand. All I can say is risks are taken when you move into these industrial spaces. It is a travsity that there is a lack of legal live/work/studio space in our city these days. It ain't the good old days anymore...And The City has to seriously rethink these mass evictions. It's so Eastern Europe circa 1944...New York has become a City of posers; a flat chested, white-faced, toasted almond fake 20th century modern, subzero-d freak show...

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

475 Kent Avenue is a Manufacturing Building that has been illegally converted into a residential building. There are no permits for the work creating the individual apartments. There are no permits for the plumbing work including the gas. There are no permits for the electrical work. The people who were living in this building were fully aware that they were not supposed to be living there. I have no sympathy for them. We have laws and we must all live by them. I just checked the New York City Charter, New York State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and I do not see an exemption for “ARTISTS.”

Your record of reporting inaccurate, erroneous and totally false facts on Gowanus Lounge is still in tact. “A complaint to the Department of Buildings on January 19 about a defective sidewalk shed prompted an inspection that led to the evictions.” Funny, since when does a complaint to the Department of Buildings, bring out every agency execpt the Department of Buildings.

The FDNY vacated the building due to the hazardous conditions caused by the illegal Matzah Bakery in the cellar of the building. If you have been awake in NY over the past few months since the two firefighters died at the Deutsche Bank building, the FDNY has been ultra sensative when it comes to buildings where the Standpipes are not working. Would you like to take a guess on the condition of the standpipes and sprinkler system at 475 Kent Avenue?

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really a sidebar to the actual 475 discussion, but I'm not sure I get the "explosive grain" thing. Is there a specific permit for storing grain in the city, or was it just not licensed at all? I'm asking this b/c the commercial bakery down the street from me at Grand b/t Lorimer and Leonard gets entire tanker cars of grain delivered at least once a week.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me thinks 11:04 needs a reach around

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grain does explode, especially when it's not regularly inspected.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's how New York Magazine, via wannabe journalist Annsley Chapman, handled the homelessness of their fellow New Yorkers at 1717 Troutman:

Real classy, Annsley. Perhaps you should do a Round 2 with the 475 Kent folks?

6:33 PM  

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