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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during today's press conference announcing proposed revisions to the city's Loft Law. (screenshot by the author via Periscope)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during today’s press conference announcing proposed revisions to the city’s Loft Law (screenshot by the author via Periscope)

This afternoon at 475 Kent Avenue, a former manufacturing building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, now filled with live-work lofts, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a proposal to overhaul the city’s Loft Law. The revisions — which will have a public hearing before being put before the city’s Loft Board by the end of the year — include closing a longstanding loophole related to pied-a-terre lofts and extending rent regulation for loft spaces after tenants have been bought out.

“This is really about keeping New York City New York City, it’s as simple as that; this is about making sure that the people who make New York City great can afford to live here,” the mayor said during a press conference in the live-work studio of artist Eve Sussman. “I hear all the time from folks in all of the arts, in the entire cultural field, that it’s harder and harder to live here, and they have to think about whether they can hang on or not. And we don’t want to lose one of the most essential parts of New York City.”

The mayor added that nearly 30% of the city’s rent-regulated lofts have been lost in the last 15 years, blaming, in part, former mayor Michael Bloomberg for policies that disproportionately favored landlords and developers over tenants.

475 Kent (photo by David Gallagher/Flickr)

The three provisions being put before the Loft Board include one that would extend Loft Law protections to loft residents who may not be a given space’s primary leaseholders (such as children of an artist living and working in a loft); another will require tenants applying for Loft Law protections to prove that the loft is their primary residence; and another will subject loft units whose tenants have been bought out by their landlords to rent regulation. Under the current terms of the Loft Law, after a buyout the landlord can raise the rent on a loft unit to the market rate, thereby further depleting the city’s stock of live-work housing affordable for artists and other cultural workers.

New York City’s Loft Law, first passed by the state legislature in 1982, allows occupants who bring their spaces in former manufacturing and industrial buildings up to code as residential spaces to benefit from rent regulation and other protections. It has increasingly come under scrutiny from artists and activists who claim it has not done enough to protect loft tenants from the city’s rapid gentrification.

“There’s gotta be a place in this city for people who are creative even if it doesn’t make them wealthy, and this is what we defend today,” de Blasio said.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...