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Gowanus Artists Are Evicted from Building, and Trash Pickup Suddenly Halts [UPDATED]

Trash fills a hallway at 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus
Trash fills a hallway at 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Garbage has been piling up for weeks in the halls of 112 2nd Avenue. The industrial building, which sits directly beneath the Smith–9th Street viaduct in Gowanus, is part of a complex that changed hands last year, leading to the mass eviction of artists from their studios in the adjacent buildings 94 and 98 9th Street and 75 and 75A 10th Street. As those buildings emptied out, there was hope that 112 2nd Avenue might avoid a similar fate, at least for a while.

The door to 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus
The door to 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus

“There was optimism because people had leases that went until 2017,” says Mahalia Stines, a designer who has been in the building since 2007. “We have a real community of artists here.”

But on August 2, the tenants of the 52 studios on the second floor of 112 2nd Avenue were informed that they all had to be out by the end of the day on September 30. In his email announcing the eviction (which a tenant forwarded to Hyperallergic), landlord Edward Colley added that tenants also had to remove all their belongings from the building, including any lofts they might have in their studios — even if they had inherited them from previous tenants; failure to do so would result in a studio-wide fee. None of the tenants has heard from Colley since (he has not returned Hyperallergic’s calls either). A few weeks later, the building’s trash pickup ceased — exactly who discontinued the garbage collection remains unclear.

“There’s a total lack of respect for us,” says comics artist Khary Randolph. “None of us are bad tenants; we’re excellent tenants. Just do the bare minimum of your job.” Randolph is one of a dozen comics artists from 112 2nd Avenue who are moving into a shared space a few blocks away, but many of the 13 artists from the building I spoke to yesterday are leaving the neighborhood.

Dean Haspiel looks out the window of his studio at 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus
Dean Haspiel looks out the window of his studio at 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus

“Where does the city expect the artists to go to make it cool next?” asks comics artist Dean Haspiel, who has been in the building, on and off, since 2007. “I think art is moving out of New York.”

A sign directing tenants of 112 2nd Avenue to pitch in for a dumpster
A sign directing tenants of 112 2nd Avenue to pitch in for a dumpster (click to enlarge)

With just over a week before the September 30 deadline, the tenants of 112 2nd Avenue are rushing to wrap up any pressing projects, pack up their belongings, and disassemble their studios. Faced with the threat of fines, they’re also scrambling to organize and pay for a dumpster and coordinate the pickup of building materials and furniture, while the banks of garbage bags slowly mount in the hall.

“It’s like a bad movie cliché,” says comics artist Jason Goungor. “This is what landlords do.”

What will become of the building remains unclear. The floor beneath the studios, which formerly housed a furniture company, has already been gutted, as have all of the adjacent buildings. A sign on the exterior of 94 9th Street, another address for the property bought last year by developer Eli Hamway through the company CH Gowanus LLC, lists a projected completion date of summer 2017. Hyperallergic’s calls to CH Gowanus LLC and affiliated companies Industrie Capital Partners LLC and Fulton Halsey Holdings LLC were not returned.

Trash fills a hallway at 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus
Trash fills a hallway at 112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus

“When the whole building sells, you know what’s coming; most of it has already been gutted, and we’re the gangrened leg still hanging on,” says artist Drew Conrad, who has had a studio in the building since 2010. “I’m taking the plunge, I’m moving to Hudson. I’ve hit a point where I can’t afford the amount of space I need in Brooklyn.”

The eviction comes just as artists in the neighborhood are getting set to open up their spaces to the public for Gowanus Open Studios (GOS). Last year, 25 artists at 112 2nd Avenue participated, but by the time GOS 2016 comes around (October 14–16), the building will be an empty shell.

“I wish they would’ve let us stay until November, so we could’ve had one last open studios in here,” says artist Javier Barrera, who’s been in the building for five years and has found a new space on the border of Bushwick and Ridgewood. Others have looked at spaces in Sunset Park, Gravesend, and East New York. Some, like Conrad, have given up entirely on having a studio in the city.

“There’s got to be some legislation to protect artists in New York City,” says Stines. “Since this city has existed it’s had artists. Culture is one of its biggest assets. If the culture is under attack, what are we left with?”

Update, 9/27: A new management company, Prospect Management, has taken over day-to-day operations at 112 2nd Avenue and has provided the evicted tenants preparing to move out with a 30-yard dumpster.

112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus and the MTA's Smith–Ninth Street viaduct above
112 2nd Avenue in Gowanus and the MTA’s Smith–Ninth Street viaduct above
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