These 3 guys need space

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Wanted: big space. Time frame: now. The three founders of a nearly finished Fort Greene music venue and art gallery that the city intends to raze to make way for a new home for a Manhattan dance group need to find a new home of their own — now.

“The ideal space would be in Fort Greene, toward Downtown, about 6,000 finished square feet, and market rent,” said Philip McKenzie, one of the three partners behind Amber Art and Music Space. “Right now, time is one of our worst enemies.”

There’s little question that McKenzie and his partners are in a pickle. The three Fort Greene- and Clinton Hill-based entrepreneurs had invested two years, and more than $1 million — including more than $200,000 in rent — fixing up a derelict building at the corner of Ashland Place and Fulton Street. But on Aug. 21, they were told that the city wants to condemn their space to make way for a home for Dancespace Project, which will serve as the centerpiece of the BAM Cultural District — a.k.a. Brooklyn’s own Lincoln Center.

The three men do not own the building, but rather have a 10-year lease with Juan Lopez, who also owns Best Buy Wines and Spirits across the street. Because they are merely renters, they have no bargaining power with the city. But no one told them they were investing in a site that would soon be condemned.

“There is a lot of evidence that Lopez knew about this,” said McKenzie. “There were public notices that went out in 2004.”

The city also claims that it sent notices to all landowners in the footprint of the Cultural District. But Lopez told Greene Acres that he found out about the imminent use of eminent domain the same time the owners of Amber did: “Two weeks ago.”

“Am I going to be stupid enough to rent it knowing it will condemned?” said Lopez.

Now the men’s only option is to find a finished space nearby. Only months remain before they must give up and declare bankruptcy.

And so McKenzie and his partners are engaged in a mania of networking with the tenuous hope of finding a suitable space. In so doing, they’ve met with the Who’s Who of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, from Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (the quasi-governmental agency charged with facilitating development in the neighborhood) to elected officials like Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) and Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) to Clinton Hill artist Danny Simmons. So far, they’ve gotten a lot of moral support, but nothing tangible.

“I think their concept fits well with the idea of the BAM Cultural District,” said Simmons. “Hopefully somebody will come to their rescue.” Simmons will not be that somebody.

“I’m an artist. If I had deep pockets, I would buy into it,” said Simmons. “I would recommend it to people who are venture capitalists.”

James, meanwhile, said the partners’ fate rests with the landlord.

“The landlord will have to reimburse them for all of their expenses to make Amber whole,” said James.

But Lopez said the money is going to have to come from the city: “They won’t get a penny from me. I didn’t decide to condemn the business. The city did.”

The partners said there is no way they can hold on for more than a few months. Their only hope lies in finding a new space fast.

“[We’re facing] complete financial destitution,” said Triplett. “We’re just in a place where we need immediate assistance, and we’re trying to identify where that’s going to come from.”

The Kitchen Sink

Get a taste of the flourishing, but under-the-radar, Wallabout arts scene and help out the S.E.L. Lupus Foundation of New York, by checking out a show called “Innuendo,” from Oct. 13 to Nov. 24 at the new Art Space MCV/NYC (20 Grand Ave., between Flushing and Park avenues). Visit or call (917) 478-7513 for information. …

We hear our pal DK Holland will run an article in the next issue of The Hill, a literary magazine, outlining for once and for all the boundaries of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Wallabout (take that, you boundary-shifting real-estate brokers!). …

Bummed that you missed the opening of artist George Spencer’s show at the Pink Elephant Projects gallery, where all of his pieces sold out in just two hours? Don’t be. PEP is taking pity on latecomers by holding a BBQ on Saturday, Sept. 29, with 18 new pieces at $50 a pop. The gallery is at 64 Washington Ave. (bet. Park and Flushing avenues). For information, call (347) 266-5872.

Updated 4:32 pm, July 9, 2018
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