Is the Knickerbocker Village Gallery Show a Trojan Horse for Potential Co-op Conversion? [Updated]
When it comes to real estate speculation in low-income areas, a gallery show is oftentimes a Trojan Horse. Making things look pretty and appealing for prospective suitors. Especially in gentrifying neighborhoods like the Lower East Side or the South Bronx, where a distasteful “Bronx is Burning” party was held last year that exploited stereotypical tropes with hopes of maximum financial gain.
Over at Knickerbocker Village, the 12-building affordable housing complex in Two Bridges, Friday night’s “Pop-Up Art Show” launch at 75 Catherine Street appeared innocent enough. It was billed as a showcase of “art created exclusively by Knickerbocker Village residents,” including street artist Russell King and comedienne performer Jessica Delfino. However, the onsite tenants assocation alleges that there’s more than meets the eye. Just look to the promises that local elected officials would be in attendance, that the event was publicized using the Knickerbocker Village PR firm called Global Strategies, and most importantly, the recent history of co-op conversion attempts.
“Knickerbocker Village Tenants Association supports local artists and are glad to see the work of residents from KV showing off their talent, but believe the owners’ real intentions are elsewhere,” the association charges in a public statement. “Given the owners’ wishes to convert Knickerbocker Village to a co-op, we are concerned that this art show is part of their strategy by providing KV owners an opportunity to open conversations about a co-op conversion.”
“We also wish that the KV community was informed that this show was taking place,” the statement also read.
Update: A spokespersonGlobal communications refutes the claims, though.
I wanted to refute the notion that KV tenants weren’t notified about the event. The art show was publicized in the complex-wide newsletter and flyers with information about the art show have been distributed throughout KV. Friday night’s opening was primarily for friends and family of the artists.
This battle is nothing new. Ownership has been trying to privatize the sprawling property for more than fifteen years. Back in 2007, the tenant association successfully sued the state after it approved ownership’s plan to exit the affordable housing program to which it belongs. In addition, six months ago, state regulators from New York State Homes & Community Renewal reprimanded the owners of Knickerbocker Village for improperly holding meetings about a potential co-op or condo conversion. The agency ordered Knickerbocker Village, Inc. to “cease and desist” from holding any future meetings which were reportedly held over the prior few months.
Completed in 1934, Knickerbocker Village includes 1,590 rental apartments covered under a 1926 low-income housing program known as Article IV, which predated the Mitchell-Lama program.