Carnegie Hall evictions

Upstairs, Downstairs at Carnegie Hall
August 1, 2007

It’s art versus art at Carnegie Hall. In May, the venue’s leadership announced that the leases of tenants in the adjoining Studio Towers would not be renewed. Now it has moved aggressively to empty the more than 50 units situated above the concert halls, beginning eviction proceedings in July. But the tenants, many of whom have lived and worked there for decades, are putting up a legal fight and will air their concerns to local politicians at a meeting in the studios this evening.

The battle is not the classic New York story of landlord against tenants. Instead, it pits longtime residents, many of them elderly and still working in the arts, against a concert hall they love. Carnegie Hall intends to house its growing education programs in the towers after extensive renovation to begin in 2009.

“We understand they need the space, but something is missing,” photographer Josef Astor said.

Mr. Astor has occupied a multi-level studio on the eighth floor since 1985. His 22-year tenancy notwithstanding, he is one of the newer people in the building. He is also middle-aged, which makes him among the youngest.

Upstairs and across the way in the south tower is 95-year-old Editta Sherman, whose door advertises her work in “celebrity camera portraits.” She has lived and worked there since 1949, back when it was easy to rent space in the building. “Many studios were available,” she said. “It was surprising. People just didn’t move in. And they used to advertise — a full page!”

Nicknamed the Duchess of Carnegie Hall long ago by her neighbor, photographer Bill Cunningham, Ms. Sherman raised her five children in the duplex space whose 30-foot ceilings are capped with an enormous skylight. Oversize black-and-white portraits of the many Carnegie Hall musicians she has shot are propped against the mirrored walls with her photos of a few others, including Henry Fonda and Andy Warhol.

“She needs a studio. She’s still working,” Ms. Sherman’s daughter, Carole Sherman, said as her mother gamely posed for a Sun photographer. “After 58 years, she’s part of Carnegie Hall. That’s her identity.”


And today…this sad news:

Artists Sue Carnegie in Eviction Fight
BY DAVID POMERANTZ – Special to the Sun
August 3, 2007

Artists facing eviction from their Carnegie Hall studio space are taking their fight to court, asking a judge to block the music venue from forcing them to move out.

The tenants filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Carnegie Hall Corporation and the city of New York in State Supreme Court in Manhattan in which they ask the court to declare that their leases should be renewed.

The conflict began May 21, when the corporation announced that the leases of the tenants, who live in the Studio Towers above Carnegie Hall, would not be renewed, allowing the venue to renovate the space to use for education programs.

Carnegie Hall began eviction proceedings last month, prompting tenants to meet with local politicians, as The New York Sun reported on Wednesday.

The tenants’ lawsuit appears to hinge on a rent-control law that says a landlord cannot evict a tenant in a rent-controlled apartment unless the landlord is seeking to demolish the tenant’s building. The artists contend in their suit that Carnegie Hall’s renovation plans constitute a gut rehabilitation rather than a full-scale demolition. Only an “actual razing of the structure” would qualify as a demolition, the suit says.

Spokesmen for Carnegie Hall did not return a call for comment. The city’s law department has not yet received the legal papers, a spokeswoman, Laura Postiglione, said.

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