East Williamsburg DIY venue and recording studio Shea Stadium announced a $50,000 crowdfunding initiative today, with the end goal of turning the space into a “completely legal, 100% permitted venue.” In early March, the venue had announced an indefinite closure on Facebook in light of multiple violations and show shutdowns.
While there’s always reason to be wary when operating a DIY space in NYC, Shea Stadium began encountering a particular degree of trouble in mid-January; Brooklyn Vegan reported multiple NYPD shutdowns which soon led to a temporary two-week closure. Shows were moved to other spaces here and there in the meantime. When shows began at Shea again and the same issues arose, they decided to take a longer break.
A press release states that the venue was not issued any vacate orders or official condemnation, but is halting operations as a preemptive measure “to prevent racking up more expensive fines and risking more serious repercussions.”
Expensive as these fines may be, getting up to code will not be a walk in the park for anyone’s wallet. The Shea team is transparent about where the 50k is going: $20,000 goes to “renovations to pass inspection by the Dept. of Buildings, FDNY and Dept. of Health,” $13,000 for “architect fees for drafting plans and filing permits,” $1,000 for “fire safety training,” $7,000 for “health and bar permits,” and a hefty $14,000 for legal fees. And that’s not even taking the ever-rising rent into consideration.
Achieving legality will also allow Shea to have “higher visibility,” which will allow them to host daytime events and other workshops. Not that they particularly need a push; their Kickstarter just launched and they’ve already raised over $10,000, which makes the “all or nothing” funding deadline of April 21 a little less daunting. In the ten or so minutes I’ve had the page open, I’ve watched the number of backers increase nearly by the second.
This is by no means the first time a venue has turned to Kickstarter to help survive; Silent Barn raised over $40,000 in 2011 to help their previous Queens location renovate and recover from a major theft.
“Over the past eight years, Shea has become a space where people of all ages can go and know that they will be able to see their favorite artists not on a pedestal or behind barriers, but face to face where real connections are made,” they write in a press release. “We truly believe our goal is attainable because of the strength of the DIY and music community.”
DIY spaces closing is nothing new in this city, especially recently. Nearby Market Hotel, shut down in a surprise raid in October, remains closed as a show space and currently hosts the occasional vegan market or co-working session. Palisades closed in August in light of DOB violations. Secret Project Robot, whose owners have a long history of involvement in the scene dating back to Monster Island, left their Melrose Street space and are in the early stages of readying a new space in the neighborhood. Some venues are now refusing to publish their address online, relying on word of mouth in the hopes of avoiding trouble.
It’s not just venues, either: queer nightlife collective The Culture Whore’s final party was shut down on New Year’s Eve before midnight had even struck (I was heading there in an Uber when I heard the news), an experience then detailed to Thump. Chasm, a recent multi-day performance and art festival in an industrial space featuring nightlife figures and folks from Vector Gallery, was cut short due to fears of raids and later moved to the more legit Knockdown Center.
This announcement also comes at a time where efforts to change norms around DIY spaces seem to be surging. Initiatives like the NYC Artist Coalition are seeking to educate the community on the bureaucracies and complexities of city laws that can be easily (and often, unknowingly) broken by DIY space newcomers. Fire safety education has also become a hot (ahem) topic, especially in the wake of the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. NYC Artist Coalition is even helping people become certified Fire Guards.
Struggles don’t just happen in DIY spaces. Next Thursday, community members led by the Dance Liberation Network will meet with the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs in a town hall about the somehow-still-existing cabaret law, which requires a license for dancing to happen in public spaces that sell food and drink.