New York City To Damon Dash: We'll See You In Court

Categories: Closings

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Damon Dash—fallen hip-hop mogul, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records—had a club not so long ago in Tribeca called DD172. SOTC alum Zach Baron referred to it as "gallery-cum-illegal-performance-space-cum-goofy-artless-takeoff-on-Warhol's-Factory," and the Observer called Dash a "Wannabe Warhol": "Sometimes the four-story warehouse is a sprawling art gallery; at other times, it's a photo studio, or an indie band's rehearsal space." To Tribecans, it was "a front" for a suspected unlicensed club, a nuisance, a disturbance.

DD172 hasn't been operational since June, when the Tribeca Citizen observed stuff being moved out of the space at 172 Duane Street. Yesterday, the quiet block where the club was located—located in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York—rippled with interest as the city brought legal action against the building's owners.

At around 4:30 p.m. yesterday, cops served the property with a court summons and order to show cause. The defendants, 172 Duane Street Realty and "Jane and John Doe" (the tenants, i.e. Dash and associates) are accused of six counts of storing and selling alcoholic beverages without a license, as detailed in court documents obtained by the Voice. DD172 was caught violating the liquor code for the first time in November 2010 and as recently as May, according to the affidavits of police who investigated the club.

One document states that the violations "were conducted in an open and notorious manner and the operators of this establishment appear to have evinced a 'business as usual' attitude in the subject premises." DD172's repeated violations are used as evidence that the club's actions constitute a public nuisance. The plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary injunction from the judge, plus a restraining order.

The word "nuisance" came up more than once in conversations with Tribeca residents yesterday standing outside of 172 Duane. Over the course of an hour, multiple people passed by and peered curiously at the orange signs cops had taped onto the building.

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Signs posted on the outside of the former DD172 space.

"They must have really pissed someone off," one man said to a woman pushing a stroller.

"This isn't a club neighborhood," a man in a pink shirt who didn't want to be named told me. He lives in 174 Duane, directly next to DD172. "It used to be, but it isn't anymore. If it was an industrial neighborhood, it would be fine," he said.

Another 174 Duane resident who wished to remain anonymous told me that "Damon Dash was a terrible neighbor. It was always super loud, super noisy, tons of garbage in the street. All these 18-year-old kids smoking and drinking—real thugs. They were disrespectful to the neighborhood." This neighbor said the local rumor is that "the owner rented to Damon Dash to fuck with the neighbors," and that the landlord knew full well that Dash wasn't the kind of tenant the neighborhood wanted. He described Dash as a "hustler" and DD172's purported "media collective" status as a "front" for an illegal club, a claim that the city apparently corroborates.

My calls to 172 Duane Street Realty were not returned.

In recent years, Dash has had financial troubles; he admitted to owing the IRS $2 million in back taxes in August. The Observer noted in 2010 that "Mr. Dash was vague about his financial arrangement with the landlord" and that one of his assistants said they had struck a "creative deal" to rent the space. The presence of DD172 in the neighborhood has been contentious from the start, neighbors said. It's unclear why the city took so long to take legal action against the property, or why any legal action is necessary at this point, since the tenant was thrown out two months ago.

What's clear is that one of the richest—and whitest—neighborhoods in the city was not a place where Dash's club could survive. The defendants' first court appearance is scheduled for September 14; we'll be there if we can.

[rgray@villagevoice.com | @_rosiegray | SOTC homepage | Facebook | Twitter | Letters]


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