(Photo: Greenwich Village Historic Preservation Society)

(Photo: Greenwich Village Historic Preservation Society)

Steve Cannon, the owner of A Gathering of the Tribes, seems to have finally lost his years-long fight to keep his East Village gallery space. But he isn’t giving up just yet.

In a letter to supporters, the gallery says, “Our landlord Lorraine Zhang has put 285 E. 3rd St. on the market, and is moving to evict Steve Cannon and Tribes on April 15.” According to the letter, the gallery, which has been in the neighborhood for some 24 years, has exhausted all appeals – so it’s looking for someone to buy the historic building, between Avenues C and D, and turn it into a residence for creative types.

Zhang, the building’s owner, confirmed to Bedford + Bowery that it’s for sale, and referred further questions to her attorney, Steven Gee, who said Cannon will have to move out next month because he broke the terms of an existing agreement.

Cannon was first given a month to get out in December of 2011 and then 10 days to leave in May of 2012, when his landlord cited noise complaints from other tenants as well “continued use of the premises as an office and art gallery, which is contrary to the lawful usage permitted by the certificate of occupancy for the building.”

“There are other people that live in the building and you have to respect other people’s rights to live peacefully in their apartments,” Gee told B+B today. “So if someone else who lives in the building complains that they’re disturbed by the activities of another tenant the landlord has an obligation to investigate and proceed accordingly.”

A Gathering of the Tribes — one of the last homegrown art spaces in the East Village — had been hosting events over Zhang’s protestations. The gallery sporadically holds readings, dance recitals, musical performances and openings for its art shows, many of which explore issues around curator Steve Cannon’s blindness.

Cannon sold the building to Zhang in 2004 for $950,000. According to the e-mail from Tribes, she is currently asking $3.35 million. Neither Zhang nor her attorney would confirm that figure, but Gee argued against the e-mail’s implication. “When he sold that building it was a different market – times have changed. She bought the building for what he thought was fair consideration back then. If people get fortunate and buy a building that appreciates in value – that’s not something to attack someone on.”

Below is the letter in which Cannon asks for help buying the building and converting it to residences for creative types.

Gee couldn’t say whether his client would be open to the idea, saying he didn’t even know whether the building was for sale. But he thought Cannon had been given plenty of advance warning. “He’s had a lot of time to digest what went on, to find another place to live, to relocate whatever his Tribes agenda is, to insure that it doesn’t cease to exist and it moves forward.”

Dear Friends:

As you may already know, our landlord Lorraine Zhang has put 285 E. 3rd St. on the market, and is moving to evict Steve Cannon and Tribes on April 15.

Zhang purchased the building from Cannon in 2004 for $950,000. She is currently asking $3.35 million— an amount which we believe exceeds the value of the property.

We are reaching out to you now with an urgent appeal to avert the eviction of Cannon and this internationally recognized arts space.

A Gathering of the Tribes was founded in 1990 here at 285 E. 3rd Street. We are a 501 C3 and have received funding support from the New York State Council of the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Jerome Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, Blooomberg LP, as well as an abundance of private donors.

Our literary magazine, which is published annually, is distributed to museums, schools and libraries worldwide. Our gallery space showcases both seasoned and emerging artists from across the US, as well as

Russia, India, China, Africa and beyond. We host an average of 10 exhibitions per year, in addition to the annual Charlie Parker Festival in August. Fly By Night Press, our publishing arm, publishes poetry by writers from diverse backgrounds. Tribes also sponsors and hosts music and dance performances, poetry readings, lectures, forums, open mic’s, and other happenings. We have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, literary magazines, art journals and numerous local and international publications.

Because we’ve been established for close to 25 years and have made the East Village our home, we would like to continue to operate here and offer a base of support and community for artists in our neighborhood.

This is why we need your help. Tribes is in search of a benevolent donor to purchase this property on behalf of our 501 C3. We plan on continuing and expanding our activities on the second floor as described above (gallery, poetry and performance salon, publishing magazine bi-annually, as well as 2 to 4 books per year). And we would like to convert the rest of the building to residences for poets, writers, musicians, and artists of all stripes. Our plan is to partner with foundations, schools or other institutions that can provide stipends to artists to reside here for 3-6 months, up to 1 year periods of time. We will continue offering internships through local universities to young artists, who can get involved in our programming and be mentored by the artists we house.

In order to manage such an operation, we would expand our staff to include at minimum a full-time office manager, grant writer, program coordinator, online editor and maintenance staff.

[The cost of running this building is relatively low. Fuel is approx. $10,000 per year (heat and hot water), insurance is approx. $5,000 per year, and real estate taxes are just $3620 per year. That’s a total of $18,620 annually.]

There are many possibilities for how Tribes can thrive and grow—including leasing floors to groups that could fund such artist residences. We are open to any and all kinds of creative financing. At this point what we need to secure the building.

If you are interested in buying the building or donating to a fund to purchase the building, please get in touch. The time is NOW. While we had an agreement with Zhang to remain on the premises through August 2014, Zhang has taken Tribes to court and succeeded in obtaining an eviction order for April 15, by claiming that our operation of Tribes from a 2nd floor residence violates the zoning statute. We have exhausted all legal appeals, so we either need to find someone(s) to purchase the property or get out.

This year, the HOWL! Festival will honor Steve Cannon by naming him the poet laureate of the Lower East Side. There is now a Two Boots pizza named after A Gathering of the Tribes.

It would be a tragedy to lose our space in spite of such ongoing recognition of the services we provide as an arts incubator on the Lower East Side. We are one of last places left that nurtures young aspiring artists in all disciplines. Please help, or help spread the word. SAVE TRIBES!

Thank you for your careful consideration of this matter. If you would like further information about the property or any details of our legal situation, please do not hesitate to call.