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475 Kent Shut Down: All About the Artists?

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[Photo courtesy of unbound67/flickr]

The locks were put on the doors of 475 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg yesterday afternoon with a small rally across the street and a bunch of reporters and photographers documenting the event as a bunch of local officials demanded the city let everyone back in as soon as possible. In the meantime, the 475 Kent website has a lot of back and forth about media relations and legal strategy. The PR strategy seems to have tilted to making it a story about artists being displaced. An email announcing the press conference called it "an incredible story about the demise of some of the last affordable housing for artists in NYC...475 Kent is not a building of "trust-fund" kids. They are pioneering artists that ten years ago took the first steps towards making Williamsburg the neighborhood it is today."

There's been a heated discussion about it all on the mailing list of the Williamsburg mommy group, Brooklyn Baby Hui (including heated debate about whether Billyburg moms should be talking about "political" topics like 475 Kent). Here's a little something from an email about the whole artist and gentrification thing. Here's one email:

Williamsburg is what it is because of the people of 475 and other buildings like it. We're all reaping the benefits of the hard work of the Williamsburg pioneers. If it wasn't for their tenacity and willingness to live and work and be inspired by what once was a sh-tty, dangerous and out-of-the-way neighborhood (I know because I was here too) none of us would be living great lives with our families here now. They put this place on the map. Thank them!And a reply to it:I take offense to the idea that this neighborhood was saved by the new influx of people coming in...I am sorry this sh*tty neighborhood was not up to your standards but it was for many others. Generations of families have lived in Williamsburg and continue to call it home. 475 Kent street did not put it on the map. It was already here. Just because some of us are not "artists" does not mean we somehow are less important. We were here before you found us and I guarantee we will be here when some of you put something else on the "map"...The landlord is said to be willing to get code violations that led to the mass eviction corrected and to seek a residential Certificate of Occupancy.
· Big Showing from Pols at 475 Kent Vigil [Brownstoner]
· Hard Times at Kent Lofts [Metro]
· 475 Kent Avenue to be Padlocked at 4PM [Gothamist]