Friday, December 7, 2012

Welcome to NYC, where anything goes


From the NY Times:

The old brick factory building on Banker Street and Meserole Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is just blocks from Williamsburg’s bustling Bedford Avenue, McCarren Park and the East River. There is exposed brick. There are stainless steel appliances. There is a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline from the expansive roof terrace, the perfect party space.

All of which made Oliver Fiegel, 35, and his three roommates eager to move in. Mr. Fiegel was from Germany, another roommate from France, and they wanted to experience Brooklyn loft life.

It was not until they arrived and encountered the single radiator, the sweltering loft bedroom and the kitchen light switch that inexplicably controls the bedroom lights that they decided to do a Google search on the building, 239 Banker Street.

The building, a former sweater factory, had a well-documented history — a local blogger, Heather Letzkus, has devoted nearly 150 posts to it since 2009.

To the roommates’ surprise, they learned that the building, with 74 apartments, had been converted into lofts without the city’s permission. It has racked up dozens of violations from the Buildings Department and incurred thousands of dollars in fines. In September 2009, an inspection found conditions so hazardous that the city immediately evicted tenants.

People in Williamsburg and Greenpoint have become used to looking the other way when they notice flowers and curtains in the windows of former factory buildings, and law-bending landlords are nothing new.

But this building has particularly galled its neighbors, who say it is an extreme example of gentrification run amok — and the city’s inability to do anything about it.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you're right. It should have been left empty. Let it crumble and fall apart-- then we'd look like Trenton or Philadelphia or Baltimore. Dead. Decaying. That's so much better than having young people with private sector jobs and hope for the future live there.

Queens Crapper said...

Yeah, and when those young people with private sector jobs incinerate because the building wasn't built to code, then you'll really see dead.

Anonymous said...

Trenton or Philadelphia. Yup, NYC will be just like them if greedy industrial property owners can't convert their buildings to lofts. ::::rolling eyes::::

Anonymous said...

I do not understand this.

In a city were some go ape shit if someone wears the wrong shoes or orders the wrong wine with tapas....

or a city that promotes itself as a bastion of liberal thought stands by while generous resources are allocated for the obscure and odd ...

while BS like this goes down in plain sight....

Can those that could do something to curb this egregious plague ... do something?

... or are they part of the problem in that many profit from this?

How can we rekindle NY's soul?

Charley Ferrari said...

Obviously the building not being up to code is a huge problem, and developers shouldn't be getting a pass on things like this.

But you guys can't actually think that this building is better off staying unutilized can you? We should crack down on developers getting away with crap like this, but the answer isn't to deny the existing demand of young people who want to live in Brooklyn...

Queens Crapper said...

Who is denying existing demand? There are thousands of new legal units for them to choose from. The whole Greenpoint coast was upzoned for highrises.

Charley Ferrari said...

True enough about the waterfront, but for this particular building it seems you're advocating we leave it underutilized as is (let me know if I'm misunderstanding your position!)

We're undergoing a generational demographic shift. The 50s to around the 70s or 80s was a period of suburbanization. This is a period of re-urbanization (Alan Ehrenhalt has a great discussion of this trend: http://www.amazon.com/Great-Inversion-Future-American-City/dp/0307272745)

I think we should definitely do more to discover the root causes of the problems caused by development. We should make sure things are done safely and legally, and stop giving sweetheart deals to developers (there's enough incentive to develop without these deals.)

But we can't ignore the forces that are leading these developers here in the first place.

I grew up in the Bronx, and of course get nostalgic when my old neighborhood changes. But it's selfish to resist change at the expense of the millions of young people who would like to move to New York and build their own experiences in this amazing city.

Anonymous said...

Charley and Anonymous #1:

What you both need to understand is that

A) the area in question is zoned for manufacturing and industrial use ONLY. This was an illegally created residential building in an area that was created specifically as a - successful! - business incubator and prohibits residential units. It's just that some asshat building owner decided to illegally convert the building in order to pull the wool over some hipster doofus eyes.

B) as the Crapper said, there are literally tons of new units available for renters throughout the city - even with the recent hurricane.

C) the building is not up to code. That's clear from the article, where the electric is jerry-rigged and the "loft" spaces are carved up by dry wall so thin you can punch a hole in it with your fist.

We are not a depopulating metropolitan area like Trenton, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh or a dozen other Rust Belt cities. Using those as comparison models is inappropriate at best and seriously ignorant at worst, as New York's real estate dynamics are much more akin to London, Berlin or even Washington D.C.

Paul Graziano