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Artists and Activists Fight to Improve New York City’s Loft Law

With the next deadline to apply for legal loft status looming, a rally will be held to demand better protections for loft tenants.

A performance in LEIMAY’s home at CAVE as part of the 2016 SOAK Festival (photo by @cholapaola/Instagram)

Implemented in 1982, the New York City Loft Law, which brings converted living spaces into code compliance, has received a number of amendments over the years. But many people claim it is far too restrictive in its current form, depriving tenants of affordable housing and work spaces due to unnecessary concessions. Hundreds of residents, including artists, now run the risk of losing their spaces if they fail to apply to attain legal loft status by June 15, the deadline for applications for Loft Law coverage.

Eradicating that deadline, which was set in 2015, is just one of the goals of NYC Loft Tenants (NYCLT), a group of housing advocates fighting to improve and expand the Loft Law so many more people qualify for coverage. NYCLT is currently working with members of the New York State Assembly to draft new legislation for a 2017 Loft Law Clean Up Bill, which aims to strike exclusionary regulations introduced in 2010 by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg. To spread awareness of and gain support for the bill, the group is organizing a rally in Greenpoint on Thursday evening. Speakers at the event will include government officials such as Assemblywoman Maritza Davila and Senator Martin Dilan, as well as NYCLT members, artists, and activists Ximena Garcia and Aaron Scaturro.

Garcia is one-half of the duo that runs the arts program LEIMAY, which operates out of their home, a converted industrial garage known as CAVE. As DNAinfo reported, she and her partner Shige Moriya face the possibility of losing the Williamsburg space because of a Loft Law particularity regarding their windows. The building reportedly has internal windows, which does not meet the 2010 standards. The Clean Up Bill is fighting to repeal that restriction on windows, in addition to provisions that inhibit coverage of basements and limit certain uses in a space deemed “incompatible.” On the other hand, it aims to make amendments introduced in 2015 permanent.

“We might not get everything we’re asking for — but if we turn out in force we will probably get some of it,” NYCLT organizer and NewHive co-founder Zach Verdin told Hyperallergic. He added that the bill last week gained a Republican sponsor, Senator Marty Golden, which is “critical to getting anything passed in Albany.” Officials would have to pass the bill by June 21. If it remains as is, what’s at stake is the city’s creative class, many members of which may eventually lose their housing and workspaces.

“Without the Loft Law, many artists would have been pushed out of NYC years ago,” Verdin said. “The Loft Law is part and parcel to affordable housing, artists housing, live/work housing, and rent stabilization, all of which aid in the struggle to keep neighborhoods intact and fight the displacement that pushes artists out of New York.”

The “Rally for a Better Loft Law” takes place at the San Damiano Mission in Brooklyn (85 North 15th Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) on Thursday, May 25, 7–9pm.

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