OPINION: Was city’s promise to Soho artists fake news?

BY HARRY PINCUS | As the only certified artist in residence (A.I.R.) still living in a co-op that some artists founded in 1975, I am currently in the process of being deported from the small loft that my family and I own, and have spent decades sanding, scraping, painting and, most importantly, legalizing.

An original stock certificate, an original lease, stamped and completed permits, and even a passed audit and a “letter of completion” from the New York City Department of Buildings, mean nothing to the wealthy new residents of my building, who are hell-bent on turning an obscene profit, and feel entitled to flatten anyone who stands in their way.

How The Villager reported the rebirth — and upscaling — of Soho, which had been an abandoned former manufacturing district before its empty buildings were colonized by artists. (File photo)

I have no misconceptions about what “Soho” has become, and no particular objection to removing restrictions against nonartists, who are the only people who can afford to come here today.

That said, many of these new arrivals are clearly here to throw out those of us who pioneered a harsh and forgotten old stretch of factory buildings, way back in the 20th century. The protections that the City of New York promised us with the original Loft Laws for Joint Living-Work Quarters for Artists (J.L.W.Q.A.) must stand. We created “Soho” and now we need to be protected against the beast that we inadvertently created.

I was living in a ’58 Chevy purchased for 100 bucks from a bereft horseplayer when I moved into a deserted harpsichord factory. It was cold, and the oily factory pallets and flapping doors provided more comfort than the Chevy, which had been broken into on Avenue C.

A life as an artist was taken as a calling, and an artist had no assurance of ever earning a living. After all, it was a gang of crazy artists who rescued these “Soho lofts” from Robert Moses’ postwar highway oblivion.

The City of New York created a covenant with artists, by passing the Loft Laws and the A.I.R. requirements, which also greatly benefitted the city by enabling the rehabilitation of a derelict section of Lower Manhattan. We assumed that our homes and families would be protected by the A.I.R. requirement, and couldn’t possibly imagine that these protections would be rescinded just as we greet the dawn of our old age.

Today, the rule of law is apparently fake news, and mega-real estate interests announce the doom of anything that is not money through the flapping tongues of our elected officials!

Pincus is an award-winning illustrator and fine artist

9 Responses to OPINION: Was city’s promise to Soho artists fake news?

  1. Oh my God!! That’s awful. What’s happening? I didn’t think you could get kicked out of a co-op. What are they doing to you and your family?

  2. Laws are made to be changed.

    As to this specific case, I'd love for the author to post the specifics of the situation. If he owns shares to the coop, he owns the apartment. I have a hard time thinking it could be taken away from him as long as he pays his maintenance.

    • Let me fix that screen name for you. Edit: "$$$$"
      Clarifies everything.

    • Laws are made to be upheld.

      When wealthy and powerful actors believe that they are above the law, and can “change” the law by simply doing as they see fit, the fabric of a civilized society, as well as our human rights, are truly at risk.

      My problems have nothing to do with nonpayment of maintenance, and my original 1975 stock certificate is probably the only such document from that era which still exists. You have to understand that these old buildings were considered worthless back then, and only artists were willing to inhabit deserted old factories. Today, the original artists have been replaced by wealthy non-A.I.R. owners and investors who, for the most part, don’t even live here. They are primarily interested in subletting or selling the original units.

      My family and I just want to continue to live here, in the home which we have spent so much of our life fixing and fighting for. Suffice it to say, this seems to have interfered with the plans of the other current owners.

  3. The city's promise wasn't "fake news." It was a fake promise. Does Harry think the JLWQA was never passed, it was an apparition made up by some Russian-paid villagers in Macedonia? Really tired of a kneejerk media-bashing.

  4. As an old newspaper illustrator, I'm hardly out to bash the media, Mr. Weinberg. I have lived and worked in a JLWQA co op for more than 44 years, and my efforts to make art, and raise a family while creating a legal living space have been arduous, and very real. My grandfather did indeed come from a Russian village, if that's okay with you, but I was the son of a Brooklyn subway conductor.

    What apparently is an "apparition" are the legitimate rights of my family, to live in the fully legal home which we created. The current non-artists who have bought their way into control of our co op don't even live here, and an original Artist In Residence stands in the way of their
    profiteering. So I'm currently fighting to hold on in Supreme Court, taking on wealthy lawyers, real estate operators and heirs who have far more money than I, and are more interested in selling for obscene profit than living or working here.

    It's no apparition, Bill.

  5. You fail to grasp my point, it seems. I didn't say the city's bait-and-switch was an apparition. I object to calling to "fake news." It isn't the news that was fake, and that overused Trumpism should be consigned to the dustbin of rhetoric. I wish you luck in your struggle.

  6. Oops, I meant "calling it." Hate the fact that you can't edit here. Anyway, point made (I hope). Peace out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *