- Karolina Sobecka’s interactive dog projection installation “Sniff” at Not An Alternative in 2009. (Photo: Frank Pichel)
It’s been a bad year for DIY art spaces on Havemeyer Street: first Cinders Gallery was forced out of its 104 Havemeyer space by a massive rent increase (and then kicked out of its new location around the corner mere months later), and now neighboring art space Not An Alternative is having to vacate its storefront at 84 Havemeyer following a stunning 240 percent rent increase.
The self-described “hybrid arts collective and non-profit organization” has been at 84 Havemeyer, near the intersection with Metropolitan (right across from the Knitting Factory) since 2000, though Not An Alternative was officially formed in 2004 in response to the visiting National Republican Convention.
In 2005 it was renovated from a live-work space into a co-working office, workshop and office space dubbed NO↔SPACE. In an email sent out on Monday (and posted on their website), Not An Alternative explains their present situation:
Beyond pedagogy, we’ve engaged in practice, in collaboration with community groups and cultural producers. Our first major effort involved a series of projects aimed at challenging the 2005 rezoning and gentrification of North Brooklyn. But the neighborhood has changed dramatically since then, and we’ve had front row seats. The block built up, the foot traffic grew, and so did the rent. The latest hike is the last straw: a 240% rent increase, from $2500 to $6000. And so we find ourselves displaced, like countless other spaces, businesses and residents around here over the years.
But the non-profit art space’s creators vow that this is not the end: “we’ll keep you appraised of our next steps.” In the meantime, they’re throwing a final screening and closing party on Saturday September 17th. Come by and pay your respects to one of the last such spaces in the neighborhood.
“I don’t want to live on Havemeyer Street, just because my neighbors can’t get any sleep!”
Those lines are from the early Williamsburg punk band “The Nipples.” I sang them, our guitarist James Porter wrote them. In the early 90s, Havemeyer Street was where you moved when you got priced off Bedford Avenue.
Nothing draws money to a neighborhood the way art does. And the more radical the art, the more avant-garde, the more alternative or “not alternative” it is, the more acute the interest of money in the neighborhood. Go to Chinatown and get one of those Chinese finger puzzles. The more you struggle to get out of it, the tighter the grip. That’s what I’m talking about.
Several years ago there was an initiative in East Williamsburg among artists to avoid renting in residential areas and in certain kinds of retail areas, where that might pose a threat of rising rents and displacement of the long-time residents and businesses. It was a kind of “tread softly” policy, voluntary of course, in which you would stick to the more industrial and vacant areas. A worthy idea. And look what happened to Bogart Street.
The thought of hundreds of beautiful young college graduates treading softly in a blighted neighborhood, so as to avoid changing anything, is risible. It’s just not possible, sweetheart. It is time Brooklyn artists understand that if they are the avant-garde of anything, they are the avant-garde of the bourgeoisie.
The connection between avant-garde art and the bourgeoisie (artists and yuppies) has always been in place. Today it is just more obvious than ever before. Our economic power in these neighborhoods, our political power evidenced in extraordinary pieces of legislative exceptionalism like the Loft Law, amount to an “art movement” whose efficacy is social and economic, not just aesthetic.