Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

1717 Troutman residents thrown out by NYC at 9pm, no notice

without comments

Following a stay of three weeks in Mexico City to complete a commission for a museum in the historical center and staying in a nice hotel and being treated as a respected guest, I returned to New York City to be homeless.

My residence and studio are located at 1717 Troutman in Ridgewood, a corner of Queens. The building is zoned for commercial use and I moved in nearly four years ago, since my previous building, a beautiful 19th century industrial brick building was to be demolished for the construction of condos. As a working artist and professor who needs a wood shop and studio, I have little recourse but to take a lease in a commercial building. The rents in New York City, a city that prides itself for its cultural relevance, are too too high for artists.

Fortunately, I was not here when the fire department broke down the doors of the second and third story residents to throw them out of their homes at 9pm Thursday night, October 18th. The people living and running their small businesses (largely artists paying taxes for studio spaces) at 1717 Troutman had absolutely no prior warning that they were going to be forced out of their homes. The Department of Buildings (DOB) states that our landlord was given a notice one or two weeks before October 18th (I hear different stories whether it was one or two weeks before). And apparently some notice was placed on the front of the building before hand, but it was immediately removed, most likely by the landlord.

The DOB informed the landlord, the man who has not brought the building up to code and claims that it is the responsibility of the landlord to inform the 220 tenants. This strikes me as incredibly irresponsible of the city and the DOB. On October 18th, the DOB pasted VACATE NOTICES on every door of the second and third floor. Just as easily the DOB could have slipped notices under the doors weeks in advance. Instead the DOB left us at the mercy of landlord who is seeking to make a profit on his building.

Now there are 220 tax paying individuals, residents of New York City kicked out of their homes with a 10 hour notice. One would not expect for this to happen in the United States of America. The Red Cross was informed, Animal Shelter was informed ahead of time. Residents were offered up to two nights at a Red Cross shelter. Initially the DOB gave residents one week to remove their belongings and only 4 hours a day to do so – 10am-2pm. Fortunately the hours and days have been extended. However my wife and I just got back from Mexico and we have to work and there is no way that we can get out of this building by Sunday October 28th, we have nowhere to go to or to take all our belongings. This may seem minor compared to the fires in California, but that is a natural disaster, our lives have been turned upside down, when it could have been avoided if people had been properly informed.

Meanwhile there is a business on the second floor, a company that has not been given a vacate notice. They have been granted 30 days to bring their part of the building up to code. Why are individuals being treated differently than this company?! This is the same company that blew the whistle on our landlord, a company that was in a lawsuit with our landlord. So there are 220 citizens paying the price for a conflict between our landlord and the company on the second floor. Meanwhile the city states that it is acting to protect us, because the building is dangerous, it does not have a second exit or functioning sprinklers. Problems that can easily be fixed. The city is acting to protect us by kicking us out of our homes and putting us on the streets with only a 10 hour notice on the morning of the day we were to be thrown out. Now we do not have enough time or the means to move out.

The residents of 1717 Troutman will have a press conference FRIDAY, October 26th at 10am in front of the building to state that we are homeless, we were not given prior warning and to beg for the Vacate to be lifted. Meanwhile my wife and I are staying on the couches of friends, who have graciously offered us space to sleep.

The New York Times covered this story on October 20th, but we need more press in order for elected officials to help us.

Written by ricardo

October 24th, 2007 at 9:59 am