It's an old story, especially in New York...
Artists move in to the place where no one else wants to go. In search of space to work, they exchange safety and hygiene for high ceilings and open floor plans. They bring a new appreciation to places where everyone else has packed up and moved on. Coal mine canaries. Once the air is safe to breathe, more people flood in, perhaps looking for a little bit of that edgy cool. Soon enough, and predictably enough, the artists can no longer afford to stay in the place that they created.
It's an old story. Especially in New York.
In Long Island City, it has been a little different. The artists arrived - and stayed - and not much happened for a good, long while. Every few years, a New York Times article would declare it "The Next Big Thing" but it never really happened. Until it happened.
I moved into my studio in 1992. I started with a huge space - it must have been over 800 sq.ft. for $400/month, which seemed really pricey. Eventually, I moved to a smaller space for under $200/month. Finally, I ended up in another space, which I have been in for about 20 years.
About eight years ago, I discovered that I could now get a really good cup of coffee in the neighborhood. In the last several years, parking became even more scarce - weekends and after 4 p.m. were no longer guarantees of a space. When that first cafe that opened was forced out of its space because of rising rents, the reality of what had happened to Long Island City was no longer deniable. The Next Big Thing had finally come into its own.
Last October, the studio building was sold. In November, a guy in a suit came around under the guise of getting to know us. Spying, more likely! He made no secret that the plan was to double the rent by the end of the year. Then, my studio mate moved out in January. Clearly, it was time to go.
If I had to choose my most prominent memory, it might be the most poignant one too. In fact, it might be my very first memory from way back in 1992. I remember moving my supplies into that big space and getting all set up to work and closing the door. It was such a radical, revolutionary, revelatory act. In all my life, I had never had a place where I could work without anyone looking over my shoulder. I remember feeling like I could do anything - it was that powerful.
Farewell Mittman Building! We've been through a lot together. Good luck! In the end, I think you might need it more than me...