Artists in residence: Concern in Crown Heights over bid to make factory a live-work space

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A bid by a group of artists to live and work in a dilapidated Crown Heights factory is causing a rift in the community between creatives who want to lay their heads where they stretch their canvases, and civic leaders who fear the paint-splattered set will set off a chain-reaction of industrial spaces being converted into high-end housing.

A group of artists lead by Nicola Lopez purchased a former confectionery at 964 Dean St. after it fell into foreclosure, securing the deed in late 2011 and using the building as a workspace.

But their plan to legally convert the building, which is in the Crown Heights industrial zone between Grand and Franklin avenues, into 13 apartments hit some skids when they sought support for a zoning variance at a Community Board 8 committee.

Critics of the plan fear that years of hard work by neighborhood activists and city officials to turn the area into a zone for industry will be wasted if the powerful-but-obscure Board of Standards rules in favor of the artists — quashing the community’s ability to create new jobs or incentivize developers to build below-market-rate housing.

“This does neither of those things,” said Danae Oratowski, a member of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “It is going to set a precedent for the Board of Standards and Appeals to continue to grant variances for residential [uses.]”

The group of six buyers stressed their deep roots in the neighborhood and artistic cred in their pitch to the community.

“I’ve had my studio literally across the street from the building for 13 years, and this is kind of an effort to really put down viable long-term roots in an area that I already feel very invested in,” said Lopez, a member of the faculty at Bard College, whose work often addresses urban decay, industry, and development. “Most of the spaces are really designed as live work because that’s what we already do in the neighborho­od.”

The artists won a small victory on Thursday night, when the committee voted 10–2 to approve the plan — but only on the condition that the group review the possibility of charging below-market-rate rents for one or two of the units.

But even after the vote, the committee was roiled in intense discussion about what it means to give away much-coveted industrial buildings that could potentially create jobs – or remain as bargaining chips for affordable housing.

“If we don’t do something, we’re going to have more meetings where people are going to come in and pick off all of the nicest buildings in the [manufacturing] zone that can be converted to residential,” said Gib Veconi, another member of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the other ‘no’ vote in addition to Oratowski. “They’re not going to have an affordable component and they’re not going to have any manufacturing jobs.”

Crown Heights is undergoing a major real-estate boom.

Just a few doors down from the artists’ property, the proprietors of the Brooklyn Flea and the arts group Third Ward will join forces to open a food court and culinary incubator in a former Studebaker service station with $25-million in help from Goldman Sachs in the next year.

The artists’ project next faces the full-board of Community Board 8.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at
Updated 10:08 pm, July 9, 2018: Story updated to point out Third Ward's involvement in a nearby project.
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Reasonable discourse

diehipster from art art art art art art art art art art art art art says:
art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art.

Enough already!
March 8, 2013, 10:43 am
manhatposeur from brokeland says:
I don't mind if the artist move in, but the community board mus t be vigilant of the greedy developers. Industrial zone in a residential area is toxic, or turning the area into new housing would be ideal.
But they must do everything in their power to stop the greedy developers and real estate agents.
March 8, 2013, 11:04 am
o3 from bk says:
why is diehipster fapping-on about art?
March 8, 2013, 2:34 pm
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
Diehipster mentions ART ART ART ART ART because the hipsters seem obsessed with it and yet, don't produce any ART worth it's name. Please point out the iconic painting or sculpture produced in the art crucible that the beardo set thinks Brooklyn is. I'll wait here.................................. You see? No art worth the name. The most famous Brooklyn hipster Artist, Matthew Lafave , is more famous for being killed, after drinking, while dressed in black, while trying to pass a truck on the right, at midnight, than he is for his ART ART ART ART ART which is complete and utter rubbish. Now are those iconic paintings and sculptures. Point them out so the judging can begin. ART ART ART ART ART ART ART ART ART ART
March 9, 2013, 10:28 am
ty from pps says:
Jesus H. Christmas, Swampy! You're such an a-hole. Which working artists in New York City do you think are worthy of your praise? Hmm? There must be a few, right? Name them. And where are their studios?
March 9, 2013, 1:07 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
If you put down your crayons and read my post slowly you will notice that I am asking someone to identify the great Brooklyn works of art. I am asking this because I want to make the point that there are none. And then you turn around and ask me to identify the same artist I said don't exist. You are simply, but profoundly, stupid. You are so desperate to say something contrary you end up asking the same question I just asked as a rebuttal. Your birth certificate is an apology from the condom factory
March 9, 2013, 3:42 pm
Ryan from 11222 says:
The Goldman Sachs backed Brooklyn Flea is a bellwether that spells doom for the immediate area. Reject it while you have the chance.
March 9, 2013, 4:28 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
$ is always behind real estate develpment - always was and always will be - brooklyn is shot to —— and all we can do is overcharge for everything under the sun and only take cash (or as they say (the bearded ones - cesh) well maybe alabama ave and eastern parkway in will soon to be upper east ny heights -
March 9, 2013, 4:34 pm
ty from pps says:
Sorry, Swampy... I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. I thought there might be a glimmer of hope -- but no, everything is bad and everything that other people think is good is also bad.

I'm sure I or anyone else could offer up artists that are interesting, thought-provoking, etc. But what will your response be? The same ol' crusty anus response. Go back to your hole. Shouldn't you be doing work around the house you inherited from your ancestors?
March 10, 2013, 1:09 am
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
I googled "famous Brooklyn Artists". Know what I got?


Of course there's a big difference between talented and famous. There are tons of phenomenally talented, unknown artists in Italy restoring gessos, statues and other works of art.

And then there's Bansky.

The person who has f*cked up the art world the most is not the run of themill hipster - it's the art critic. And the art critic has brain washed the world into believing that art is supposed to be controversial and shocking in order to be good. Hence, the popularity of "P*ss Christ".

Then the hipster - sees this zero effort example of what the world considers art and decides "hey - I can do this".

And art schools - realizing that they can make a mint off the gullible wannabes - water down their curriculum with crap. Jeez - do they even teach things like perspective and accurately rendering the human form? Probably not. Why pay talented professors when you can get some pretentious d*ickwad to sit in a class and drone on ad nauseum "yahhhhh I think you're holding back" or "it's a little to mainstream" (check out "Art School Confidential" starring John Malkovich).

The great artists - even the ones that get props from hipsters - like Dali, Chagall, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc.) learned the rules before they broke them. They had an excellent foundation and then slowly stripped away what they didn't want and came up with their own style.

Finally the big problem is - the publicno longer knows wht "good is". They want to be accepted in certain circles and want to feel superior to those who do cal b*ll—— on people like bansky by rolling their eyes and stating that "we just don't get it".

Art and food fall into the same category with regard to critics. Simply liking a dish or a painting and stating so is not enough. You have to be armed with a tome of adjectives and pseudo-intellectual catchphrases and cookie cutter comments to impress the d*8chebag standing next to you.
March 10, 2013, 8:58 am
Jo says:
All this complaining about hipsters and art.
Who cares- just want my property value to go up.
It's called 'investment'. Been waiting for this to happen.
March 11, 2013, 12:20 pm
scott from park slope says:
the nancies have spoken! nothing good can ever come out of Brooklyn, artistically, and they offer themselves up as exhibit A! yes, a city-within-a-city, 4th largest in the US in its own right, could never possibly produce artists of note, right? the only thing Brooklyn could ever produce in quantity is apparently muscle cars, guidos, and endlessly whining pansies like SwampYankee, Pat, diehipster, and oldtime, right?

first off, grow a pair, you nancies. go do some manly work of some kind that involves either brawn or brains, and then return with new perspective. second, Brooklyn does have amazing artistic talent. come October, check out the A.G.A.S.T. (Annual Gowanus Area Studio Tour) and see works of art that rival and sometimes blow away anything you'd see in MoMA. marvel that you live among these people everyday and piss on them daily on this website despite your own complete and utter lack of talent, intellect, or common humanity. then contemplate how utterly small, miniscule, and meaningless your own existence is that you expend your entire energy to tear down those who want to create beauty and value and meaning instead of adding to it.

realize how small, how very, very small you are.
March 12, 2013, 10:30 am
am from ch says:
Artists pave the way for zillionaires.
March 13, 2013, 4:51 pm
Chooch Buster from Park Slope says:
Roxy Paine, Cris Martin. Bill Jensen, Amy Sillman, Rachel Harrison, Cosimo Cavallaro, David Kapp, Ken Butler, Some famous Williamsburg artists. And they're right in Crown Heights. It will be bye bye to the neighborhood. Hey Dyker Heights, I'm lookin' at ya!
June 12, 2013, 8:01 am
Chooch Buster from Park Slope says:
And I think this problem may also be owing to a sensitive cultural difference that has transpired in the neighborhoods in recent years. Namely, having to do with the TOTAL IGNORANCE OF THE F***KIN MOOKS AROUND HERE !!! First of all, Brooklyn is all over the map. You cannot have a conversation about art in Düsseldorf or Paris or London or Hong Kong or Milan, without the word "Bushwick" coming up. But art is an elitist activity. It's not television, it's not spoon fed to you like the so-called "culture" you morons are used to. This is what the chooches don't get. Whether you're making art or looking at art, you have to WORK to find it, to "get it," to have even the slightest idea of what you're looking at. It's like saying, if Brooklyn now has a high-economy, how come I don't see it. Well, Einstein, maybe because you dropped out of high school and wouldn't know the acceleration of gravity if it hit you on the head.
June 12, 2013, 10:59 am

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