No Respect for the 'Colonizers of Williamsburg'

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There's a final gentrification push in the land of Williamsburg, according to The New York Post, that may make the starving artist extinct, or possibly just make the starving artist move to Bushwick. Pre-hipster (original hipster?) types—dancers, painters, architects, and such, who are also now adults with families, aka, grownups, aka "old hipsters," whatever that word means—are battling it out with landlords to hold onto their loft spaces in the Brooklyn neighborhood. What's terribly unfair here is that these people COLONIZED Williamsburg from a crime-ridden factory-laden hellhole 20 years ago "into the hipster capital of New York," in the words of The Post's Rich Calder—and yet, they're the ones who might end up on the streets? Calder writes:

“The people like us who made Williamsburg cool are now the ones being given the boot,” said David Opdyke, 43, who moved into 338 Berry St. in 1995 and lives in the former noodle factory with his wife and their two young children.

Opdyke and his neighbors, who "paved the way for the subsequent hipster invasion" and currently are the few folks remaining in their seven-story building, are in an eviction dispute with their landlord, who, they say, wants to kick them out so she can turn the building into luxury condos. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Bert Bunyan has taken the side of their landlord. The ins and outs of the law are complicated: Bunyan says the residents weren't actually protected under the original Loft Law because those lofts hadn't been residential in the '80s; when a previous owner tried to evict the tenants in 2004, there was a compromise ending in an agreement that the residents would be out by April 2011. Then in 2010 a revision to the Loft Law "qualified the Berry Street lofts for rent-stabilization protection" but apparently it did not override the 2004 agreement, said Bunyan. 

This leaves the colonizers of Williamsburg between a rock and a hard place: They must either "leave their beloved Billyburg and trek east to Bushwick, where many of their fellow painters and sculptors have been driven" (because that's the only option, clearly), or they'll have to get the money to move into the new "legal" artist lofts being built in the neighborhood. After having colonized Williamsburg, they're not happy about these choices. 

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But alas, as has always been the case throughout the history of New York City, starving artists have sought out cheaper living spaces and neighborhoods where they might live and work in relative freedom and comfort. And as we've seen in the history of New York city, more people, possibly less desirable people, possibly hipsters, move in, and developers develop, and rents rise and buildings get rezoned and become more expensive to live in. Good or bad, this is exactly what happens. People complain, and then, inevitably, the artists move to Bushwick, until they get pushed somewhere else. It's the circle of urban real estate life. As are the unending court dates arguing over who colonized what—they're back in court next week to appeal the judge's decision. When does that Whole Foods open, anyway?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.