The end of Hope StreetJune 28th, 2011 by Bad Guy Joe
For the better part of a decade, at the east end of Hope street, lay an impressively large industrial building that seemed utterly hopeless.
The exact industrial history of this warehouse is, sadly, a bit of a mystery to me at the moment. What we do know is that in the 1980s it was mostly in use as artists lofts and small businesses.
The lofts were, at the time, on the very fringe. A comment via Brownstoner tells the story well:
I am one of the original tenants who moved into Hope Street in 1993 - after the last real estate crash. Kalamon Dolgin, specifically Neil Dolgin couldn't give it away fast enough. He even put in gas jet heaters so I could live there. No one wanted to live there, and I had been living in Williamsburg since 1988, so this was a step up. I had crack addicted prostitutes passed out on my door, There was incredible drug dealing, murders outside my window and where the gallery is on the corner of Hope and Marcy was a luncheonette where the retired guys would gather, there were scads of feral cats, the first pigeons with West Nile started dying on the roof, and also I watched 9/11 and the Twin Towers go down from that roof. A former porn actress who wound up doing business deals with Dolgin (one slut to another I liked to think) lived there with her homicidal boyfriend. We were terrorized by the super, the former gang leader of the neighborhood who stole our packages, forged our checks and occasionally attacked tenants who did not know-tow to him, My floor was 6000 square feet and over the years we had a gallery, sculptors, artists, actors, writers, notable people. We really, really used the space. The temperature in the winter in the uninsulated building would go down to the 40's. We bundled up in sweaters and dealt with it.
Also, this was one of the staging grounds to rewrite the NY City amended loft law, which almost, but did not quite pass though the bill was written and it went all the way up to what was then was Governor Pataki, Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver, but in the way of horsetrading, our bill was traded away at the last moment. It was a good fight, we lost but had a number of planning meetings there with the bill's lawyers, and rezoning happened and we all got evicted. The water got turned off, electric, you name it. A huge number of the people in that building left NY, not all, but a lot of them. We did not receive a buy out. We did go on rent strike and that helped pay the legal fees.
The guy who bought it for 26 million for Dolgin (it had been the first building in their empire, as Old Man Dolgin let everyone know he had shoveled coal) was a decent sort who lost his shirt. He was a small time developer who got in over his head. I often wonder how it went for him, because obviously he got bankrupted.
The last line of the comment refers to how often the property changed hands in the last 5 years. With so much money vested, won and lost via these various 'developers', it was a given that sooner or later some kind of residential conversion would happen with this property. We'll get to that in a moment.
Aside from being one of Williamburg's early artist loft spaces, this building also made the news when it was repeated tagged up by then-infamous street artist Neckface.For further reading on that fiasco, and how the gangsta building super wanted to kill him for it, check out this CityNoise post - which saved a copy of the NY Daily News article
The hope street warehouse was also home to the "65 hope st. gallery" - which, if you google, returns loads of results for artists who exhibited their work in this space.
On the business side, I was only able to track down one company that resided in this location: Z & L Trading Corp - which apparently was a tannery (!). As one customer commented: "I have used Z & L Trad Corp. 65 Hope street Brooklyn NY 11211 for tanning bears for rugs. I have had good luck with them as long as the bear is well taken care of in the first place."
As a personal footnote, I have vague memories of attending some party in this building while it was still lofts. The fact that I don't quite recall the details probably tells of what a good time this place must have been during the newly gentrified years, before the evictions.
Located on a previously deserted street, this building was always easy to get into. Completely emptied of everything, this building presented itself as one of the few rare utterly boring locations in NYC. Nothing really interesting to photograph, a decent if not predictable view from the rooftop, and little by way of interesting graffiti (outside of some stuff in the basement). The fact that I came and went from this place numerous times over several years without bothering to post about it show how uninspired this place was from a illegal partying/exploring perspective.
As of my time in writing this, work has finally begun on the residential conversion. The good news is that this majestic old industrial building will not be torn down. The bad news is that it will soon house 117 one bedroom and studio "apartments". It will also only have 11 parking spaces. I guess they are aiming to rent it onto to unshowered, bicycling riding hipsters. The fact that the community board rubber stamped such a short amount of parking for a building that will probably contain at least 200 residents is a little ridiculous. Basically they're converting it into a dorm. Surely they will need to pack in as many residents as they can to make some money off this building. A few owners and many millions lost in speculation, this building is a sad tribute to the real estate industry in NYC, though with it's exterior still intact, it will also serve as a reminder towards the industrial days of NYC, and the bad old days of the neighborhood - when crack and gangs were king and the white people were either bold or stupid.