Our post last week about a protest at 1717 Troutman Street, a warehouse whose residents were “evacuated” by fireman with sledgehammers after only ten hours’ notice, generated quite a few comments. “1717 Troutman Street is in Ridgewood, Queens, not Bushwick, Brooklyn,” Liz Sweibel, a former resident wrote. This is true although the press release sent to us from the residents did say Bushwick. But perhaps that was wishful thinking? Because contrary to commenter Jomo, a resident who did “not appreciate the use of the term ‘Hipsters’ to describe the tenants,” we maintain that the residents of 1717 were at least mostly hipsters (see above) and, hey, we call it like we see it. But! As Liz and Jomo said, hipsters are people, too. Which is why we checked back to see how everyone was doing, and if they had gotten any results from their protest.
“I was born and raised in New York, and I love this city, but this experience has made me want to leave,” declared Claribel Pichardo, a performance artist and nonprofit worker who lived in the Ridgewood warehouse with her fiancé, a writer (ahem: again, see above). “I’ve lost faith in this city to accommodate all the people who create the culture that makes it so unique.” Meanwhile, landlord David Steinberg has not yet come out of his hole, although mounting evidence from city documents suggest that Steinberg knew both of the fire code and zoning regulations that the warehouse violated; and his former tenants say he sent frantic text messages a week before the unannounced evacuation demanding overdue rent. “He signed a lease to a girl three days before the evictions,” says Pichardo. He later offered to return her $3,200 but then just stood her up.” Pichardo is attempting to organize a concerted effort to sue Steinberg but fears the long process and legal fees will burn out tenants as they find new homes and move on with their lives. And help from the city is not forthcoming. “Aside from [Senator Malcolm] Smith and [Assemblywoman] Catherine Nolan, no one’s said anything. It’s shocking. But we have to fight this. You listen to these stories, about people living in shelters, in their cars, having no money, and each one is more depressing than the next.” One of the more depressing stories is the one of Pichardo’s neighbor, who relocated to Troutman after losing his home to Hurricane Katrina. “He said, ‘I can deal with losing my home to a natural disaster, but not to a city,’” she recalls. He left New York last week and was headed back to New Orleans. —Annsley Chapman