After a visit last year to ABC No Rio, a former squat building turned community space still very much awaiting its day for the ambitious makeover plans to get underway, I didn’t know what to expect from Umbrella House. The latter is a former East Village squat that, after years of push and pull with the city over legalization, became a fully legal, limited-equity affordable housing co-op. But then I caught up with Steven Englander, who now works at his former residence ABC No Rio and has lived at Umbrella House for about 16 years.
The Rent Guidelines Board met last Thursday ahead of voting to determine the maximum allowable rent increase for rent regulated apartments throughout New York City. The same review happens annually, but this year there’s a special sense of urgency as rents continue to rise amidst falling incomes and a precipitous drop in rent regulated housing stock, which account for some 1 million homes in the city. Proponents of rent regulation agree that the system is badly in need of reform, but it remains to be seen what exactly that might look like when Albany revisits the rent regulation laws, which expire on June 15. Many affordable housing advocates are worried that powerful real estate interests might prevail. But for now, it’s up to the RGB to decide whether or not to continue on a course of raising rents for rent regulated tenants or take the advice of some lawmakers and freeze rents.
You’d have to be living under a rock to be surprised to hear Bushwick is undergoing some explosive changes. It feels like streetscapes here are transforming faster than anywhere else in the city and many longtime residents feel they’re losing grip on their neighborhood. But Bushwick is in a strange limbo right now. While the northeast corner is bubbling over with ritzy new restaurants, bars, clothing stores, and art galleries, all increasingly patronized by German tourists and chiseled young bro dudes with man buns, for now at least the southern section closer to the graveyard has resisted these striking demographic shifts and skyrocketing rents. “We need to make moves now,” explained Drew Vanderburg, a resident of Bushwick and a graduate student at Parsons in the Design and Urban Ecologies program.
“When you look at Williamsburg, you hear about The Edge, right?” says Ryan Black. “You hear about Northside Piers—these projects on the waterfront that were built with an average unit size of like 850 square feet.” These residences were catering to first-time home-buyers, he says, and now the neighborhood is ready to move past that.
There’ll soon be twice the Vice on North 11th Street.
“Basically, I fell in love with it,” he says. Six years ago, when Ricardo began making plans to open a coffee shop, he dreamed of securing a location on Stuyvesant.
Six years ago, Josefina Blanc, a former photography editor at Art & Commerce, found herself priced out of Bushwick when the rent on the 10,000 sq. ft. loft shot up from $2,500 to $8,000. Her husband, a performance artist now represented by a gallery in Chelsea, had spent years renovating the space with the understanding that, in exchange, the rent would remain stable, but efforts to appeal to their landlord were in vain. The couple decided to call it quits and moved to South Carolina that year.
In a move fittingly symbolic for a paper whose corporate overlords flew in to lay off some of its most venerated, tenured writers, the Village Voice is moving out of the Village — where it’s been, of course, since 1955 — to an office tower in the Financial District. The move is scheduled for sometime in August.
The new offices are located on the twenty-first floor of an office building at 80 Maiden Lane. Also in the building are the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the New York offices of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Department of Investigation for the City of New York. According to a realtor at Winick Realty Group, the sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s will be opening its first Manhattan location in the building’s ground-floor retail space over the summer.