Monday, March 7, 2011

A Gathering of Tribes faces an uncertain future on East Third Street

Colin Moynihan at the Times reports on what could be the end of A Gathering of Tribes on East Third Street. The building that has housed the arts and cultural organization at 285 E. Third St. between Avenues C and D is on the market for $2.995 million.

Per the article:

The news sent shudders through generations of poets, artists, musicians and others, who felt a strong sense of devotion to A Gathering of the Tribes, a gallery and salon in the building, and to [Steve] Cannon. A former humanities professor, who taught for 25 years at city university campuses including Hunter College in Manhattan and Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, Mr. Cannon decided in 1991 to turn the building, which he had bought for $35,000 in 1970, into a salon and open house where practically everybody was welcome.

Per the listing at Marcus & Millichap:

• Four Free Market Floor-Through Two Bedroom Apartment
• Approximately 3,000 Square Fee
• 22 Feet of Frontage on East 3rd Street Between Avenue C and Avenue
Possible Conversion into a Single Family Townhouse
• 1,100 Square Foot Garden Located Behind the Building

Cannon sold the three-story federal-style townhouse to its present owner — Lorraine Zhang — in 2004 believing that he would be able to occupy the second floor for at least a decade.

Meanwhile, according to the article:

"Mr. Cannon said he was exploring whether he had any legal recourse to oppose the sale in court. At the same time, he said, he would reach out to friends and arts patrons to see whether any of them might be interested in buying the building and turning it into an artists’ residence and cultural center."


Anonymous said...

This particular story is a tough one, because the loss of something like this is terrible for the community, but it wasn't like the owner didn't SELL the building. That's what happens. I think we can all attest to the fact that contracts and the law mean nothing to a landlord in this city, just by reading a few pages of this blog. This isn’t a case about preservation, which was actually up to him, nor is it about an unjust development deal like many others we have witnessed in recent years. So, who’s the one to blame here?

Perhaps it isn’t a question of that, but it angers me to think that someone who actually OWNS a building that strives to service the cultural life of this city would sell it to someone not associated with that intention. And then, of course, try to fight the case when the new owners want to make the money that they legally can. How is it in their best interest to keep him on the second floor when they could make more money (since that seems to be the drive in all of humanity) by converting the entire building? As disgusting as that fact is.

Now, obviously I don’t know the details behind the sale, nor do I care to, but it would appear to me that it’s the classic case of someone selling to the highest bidder, regardless of who they are. And that is exactly what we don’t need. I understand that people have legitimate reasons for selling, and one can always lose their passion, but it isn’t like he couldn’t have found an arts related organization to sell to. People who actually own their buildings, whether it’s a bakery or an arts salon (and actually “care” about the neighborhoods in which they live and bemoan the change of so much) must take on the responsibility to maintain them or find someone else appropriate for the job. These are the people that have the ability to provide a culturally vibrant future for the city, and the sooner they realize that, the sooner we’ll see a positive shift.

I would like to see him find a loophole in the case and keep it running (although, it doesn’t seem possible from what I read) but if he cant, I hope it becomes a lesson for the future…

Keep up the great work with the blog and sorry for the rambling...


Anonymous said...

Yes, but unfortunately, artists and business acumen don't always go together. I do know, whatever or whoever to blame, that if Gathering of the Tribes is evicted and yet another condo built in its place, the historic creative character of the neighborhood is eroded even further. Actually, I DO know who is to blame--the city, for not offering more services to assist sometimes clueless artists through health, real estate and business challenges, considering all that the arts have brought back to the city (they are the #2 economy after wall street). The saddest thing is that Steve Cannon might not even have sold to the "highest bidder," but got ripped off, like so many others. Anyway, sucky news--I'm pretty sure how this scenario is going to play...