Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Gift


The New York Times, the paper of record, has finally thrown me a bone, for my birthday.

I was in brief conversation with the NYT reporter via email a month or so ago about the situation for artists at Industry City and elsewhere in NYC. I've chronicled my feelings about this several times on these pages (here is one), so I will not go into yet another rant on the subject. However, I will say that I am critical of the NY Times for their inability to report this story. Whether intentions were good or not, it always appeared as if, in selling the story to an editor, it required spinning into a glorified real estate advertisement.

The latest story focuses on mid-career artists, those who've been around for quite some time, and their "studio journey." I appreciate that focus because it is the older artists that are hurt the most by drastic rent increases -our lives more inflexibly built around our salaries, pay that is tied to the going rates years ago. The youngest artists are often more flexible and deal with today's rents by group shares of studios or apartments. By force of youth, they also may have less stuff. Every time I have to move to a smaller place, I have to consider which things to throw away.

Now, five months after being forced out of my old studio (it still sits empty) by Industry City, I have finally been able to get organized enough to start working again. This may be the biggest tragedy, if I can use such a term, for artists -the unsettled do not make art, so much time is lost. For whatever it's worth, below is my response to the NY Times reporter.

General:

Since 2004 I have had studios in Red Hook, then Dumbo, then Industry City. Before then I always worked out of the apartments. A resident of Williamsburg in the 90s, I was priced out of those apartments after I returned from grad school in 2000. I've lived in Kensington Brooklyn since 2003.

Thoughts:

Of course my problem with IC is not their desire to make a return on their investments, but their tactics, general mistrust of artist tenants in good standing, incorrect billing, giant rent increases, and failing to recognize or care how much productivity is lost when they force us to move on their whims. Their interest in art has always, unashamedly, been to promote their real estate offerings. I can't even blame them -that's the model, nationally.

It is clear IC is not interested in artist tenancy, or at least not the kind that artists have taken for granted over the last 40 years -those post industrial warehouse spaces are gone thanks largely to residential development and the vogue for loft living, the conversion of the working waterfront to the living waterfront.

I feel like the NYTimes has difficulty writing this story. Instead it turns into some kind of real estate advertisement (as proclaimed the last article's headline (SOHO?). 

As it happens, my wife has rented another unit with IC in another building and I, begrudgingly decided to share. We went from 1000 sf to 500, but we pay way more than before (by the sqft). After searching for a year (2009 I went without a studio after leaving Dumbo due to the crazy Two Trees rent increase), it became clear that there is no longer any "affordable" and "useful" (to make physical objects) studio space here. I think artists are sensitive to talking about this because their studio is directly linked to their professional life. No one is eager to talk about not being able to afford a studio, being priced out, not selling enough art to afford the rent or working so much at the day job to pay the studio rent that their practice suffers. 


Sure, there are plenty of people in NYC who are artists and can afford the rent, but the Times needs to ask "who and what are we losing?" I firmly believe we will see the shift to regional cities that have suffered greatly as NYC rockets out of reach.

But enough of that. It's a nice day out there, and it is my birthday. Caio.






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