Tag Archives: gentrification

Ridgewood art center provides free space for locals and intellectually disabled


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

This may start off like Williamsburg — but it ain’t.

An arts center in Ridgewood is applying for a liquor license. Okay, sounds like Williamsburg so far.

But while it wants to serve alcohol for its weekend music shows, the owners also want to make more money so that they can continue to offer free services on weekdays to the local community — especially the intellectually disabled.

“The basic logic behind this place is we’re here in the community and the community needs space so we give them space,” said Sam Hillmer, one of the owners of the venue Trans Pecos. “We believe that we can be the new model for new art spaces opening up in the community.”

Every Tuesday afternoon, The Downtown Electric band can be found practicing its music set. The group is made up of six intellectually disabled people who have been practicing in the space since Trans Pecos opened in December 2013.

“Our own facility is overcrowded and it’s not conducive to creativity,” said Taryn Harris, a worker for AHRC who supervises the group’s trip from their office in downtown Brooklyn to the venue in Ridgewood. “They’d be in a dark room. Next to a copy machine. But here it’s wonderful. It’s big and we can all make as much noise as we want to.”

On Monday, another group from the same organization that provides services for handicapped people, AHRC, uses the business to hold art programs for the intellectually disabled.

On top of providing equipment and room for the group to practice their hip-hop music, Hillmer is also putting together a large exhibition at the end of the summer that will showcase the group’s music and costumes that Christian Joy — who designs the costumes for Karen O, the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — is helping them design for the band’s live performance.

When AHRC isn’t using the building, several afterschool kids programs use the venue for reading programs during the week.

Harris, who is a Certified Safety Professional, explains that some days the venue gets too hot, causing them to have to cut the band’s practice short. But with the liquor license, Hillmer said there will be enough money to install an air conditioner and make the venue more tolerable for AHRC and other community groups.

The venue also houses a record label, Northern Spy, and a coffee shop is in the process of being built in the front of the building.

Hillmer and the other owner, Justin Todd Patrick, applied for a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority last week and they are also seeking the approval of Community Board 5.

Even with the intellectually disabled groups using the venue, which is equipped with expensive sound systems and a backyard for recreation, Hillmer believes that the venue is not doing enough for the community. With the help of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office, they are looking for other community organizations that would like to take advantage of the free space.

For Hillmer, “space is a commodity” in New York City and most art venues in New York City that set up in low rent neighborhoods don’t allow the locals to use the venue.

“If you do that without any degree of responsibility to the community then it’s shortsighted and irresponsible,” Hillmer said. “It’s a shame that so many spaces are dark during the day and it’s as simple as opening up your doors. We seek to not be in two different worlds.”

 

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Ridgewood residents divided over planned luxury apartment building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Aufgang Architects

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Some Ridgewood residents are opposing a planned upscale building with a rooftop dog run, because it may be limited to renters of a certain pedigree.

Developers appeared at a public hearing at the Community Board 5 meeting on March 12 to introduce their proposed zoning change of the planned building’s site, 176 Woodward Avenue. But the meeting became feisty.

Residents who oppose the upscale building fear that it will gentrify of the neighborhood.

“What are we going to get that comes with this to make sure that our neighborhood could handle this and that it’s not a complete rift from the incomes that are in that neighborhood, so that when this wonderful looking project shows up all the folks that can’t afford wonderful looking projects in New York City don’t get kicked out,” Manny Jalonschi, a lifelong Ridgewood resident, asked.

The structure planned is a 90,000-square-foot building with 88 housing units, commercial retail space on the ground floor and 118 spots of underground parking. Owners are seeking a zoning change from manufacturing to residential. The building, which is being designed by Aufgang Architects, is estimated for $18 million.

More than 6,700-square-feet of the building will be dedicated to retail space on the ground floor, and a 3,115-square-foot community facility will be built to accommodate artists in Ridgewood and nearby Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Preliminary room renting prices are $1,100- $1,200 for a studio, $1,400- $1,600 for a one-bedroom and $1,700- $1,800 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the developer, who also said these estimates could change.

Some Ridgewood residents at the meeting voiced support, citing that the community has already changed.

“I support the zoning law, because it’s going to have a good impact on the community,” Ridgewood resident Joe Pergolese said. “People are trying to come into the community, so what we need is a building to happen there.”

The community board’s Land-Use Committee plans to meet and discuss the feedback of the project at the next meeting on April 7, before making a decision to support or oppose the rezoning. Councilmember Antonio Reynoso is also collecting feedback about the issue before voicing his support for either side.

 

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Artist behind 5Pointz banner hopes to open dialogue on gentrification


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Andy Kim

A duo of Brooklyn artists hope their recent stop in Long Island City will help open the door to a solution.

Artists gilf! and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) collaborated on Sunday to put a large yellow caution tape, about 3 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, around the Jackson Avenue side of the building which was once home to 5Pointz, with the words “Gentrification in Progress.”

Gilf!, who just goes by her artist name, said it was sad to see the 5Pointz group fight for so long to keep the graffiti mecca alive and in the end just watch it be whitewashed. She believes small businesses are what bring character to New York City, and she has been speaking out against gentrification for a while.

The artist said she had been speaking with BAMN about wanting to create a piece for 5Pointz and following another one of her shows against gentrification, the duo made it to Long Island City.

“I hope people will talk about what gentrification means to them and if it’s something that affects them. And if it is, what are they willing to do about it,” gilf! said. “I use my art to facilitate the dialogue that I think is important or is being swept under the rug.”

She also said she hopes the piece, which was taken down about 36 hours later, will open a door for discussion and bring different people together to come up with an answer.

“If anywhere in the world is going to come up with a solution for this, it’s going to be New York,” she said.

After a long fight to save 5Pointz, years of art was erased overnight last year. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action to be taken in November. Rallies were held throughout that same month to save the site, including a gathering only three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building, with its art, be landmarked.

Since the whitewashing, the demolition process has slowly begun, with signs of asbestos removal crews at the location.

Although residents have called the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and 3-1-1 with complaints, a DEP spokesperson said that all work being done is in compliance with regulations.

Asbestos abatement is taking place on the side located at 45-50 Davis St. by contractors hired by the buildings’ owners. DEP inspectors issued one stop work order, for less than 24 hours, after an inspection on March 2, for minor corrections, said the spokesperson. The issues were corrected and the order was lifted the following day.

Since then, DEP inspectors have gone and supervised the work being done, as a normal procedure.

“We have been there a few times because we keep receiving complaints about it,” the DEP spokesperson said. “But everything has been in compliance there.”

 

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