Artists Claim Rent-Stabilized Status for Their Lofts
Artists living in a former luggage factory in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood are fighting back against rising rents by pushing for their units to be declared rent stabilized. They’re arguing that because the buildings were constructed before 1974 and the landlord hasn’t significantly renovated them, their apartments should be converted into rent-stabilized units, with lower monthly payments protected by law. The current owner bought the building in 1999, and tenants first began moving into the converted space in 2000.
The owner has raised rents by as much as 60 percent over the last year, according to the lawsuit recently filed by the residents in Brooklyn’s State Supreme Court. The owner points out that the rent stabilization law is intended to protect existing rent-stabilized buildings and not create new ones.
Because they expected rents to remain low for years, tenants say they spent tens of thousands of dollars on their homes, installing showers and in at least one case an elaborate claw-foot tub, full kitchens, and screen doors. How much credit they should get for transforming the building compared with the owner may prove to be a critical question in the loft conversion case. In court papers, the owner is alleged to have spent $3.5 million to renovate the commercial building for residential use, including subdividing the units and installing bathrooms, kitchens, and refrigerators.