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Tenants, Landlord Clash Over Loft Law at Dumbo Warehouse

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Since the 1980s, 135 Plymouth Street in Dumbo has been the typical New York warehouse-turned-artist haven; one longtime Dumbo resident even called it "the original artist commune." The landlords, the Bendetto family, own a paper recycling-facility on the ground floor and have, like so many others, run the place with a "don't ask, don't tell" policy since its not legally a residential building. The creative tenants pay lower than market rate rent, but they've spent tens of thousands of dollars to build out their apartments from bare walls. Now the Times reports that both the tenants and the landlord want to legalize the residential building, but under different circumstances. The tenants have been applying for protection from the Loft Board, but the landlord doesn't want to legalize under the terms of the Loft Law.

A representative on the Loft Board told the Times that 135 Plymouth Street is inherently different from other buildings covered by the Loft Law because of its size. It's a 200,000-square-foot factory and holds between 50 and 60 units, while converted warehouses in Soho have maybe six or seven; this makes 135 Plymouth much more complicated.

The landlord of 135 Plymouth was working to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the building before tenants started applying to the Loft Board. They offered tenants "10-year leases with increases equal to those of rent-stabilized tenants, as well as a promise to upgrade the building with a new lobby, elevators, stairwells and a roof deck." But the tenants turned down the offer because it was only for 10 years, and they would have no protection from the city against eviction.

The Loft Law was extended in 2010 to give protection to artists who "homesteaded" in industrial spaces at the end of the 2000s. Previously, the law only applied to artists who had been living in commercial spaces in between 1980 and 1981. The Loft Board is still "revising its rules to regulate the provisions of the amended law," so the exact standards of how buildings like 135 Plymouth will have to meet code compliance have yet to be put in place.
· The Art of Digging In [NYT]
· Loft Law coverage [Curbed]