Artists Fight to Save Lofts

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

February 14, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 17

Artists Fight to Save Lofts

Twentieth-century New York City artists began picketing the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the rain on Tuesday to dramatize the plight of present-day Leonardos. Their protest centered on the run-around the Artist-Tenants Association members think they have been getting from city officials and Republican State Senator MacNel Mitchell. They feel that neither Mitchell nor City Hall has made a real push to get through the kind of state legislation that would allow artists to hold onto their lofts without harrassment from the authorities or would permit them to turn their buildings into cooperatives.

At an ATA meeting on Sunday evening, one artist expressed the bitterness of many working artists in New York City: "It's chic to collect paintings like Governor Rockefeller does. Everybody listens to the opinions of gallery-owners who live off artists. We're constantly doing showy things like Lincoln Center or bringing over teh Mona Lisa at the very same time artists are being thrown out on the streets. Everything we do is of interest to the cultural world -- except the act of painting. That's against the law!"

There was special urgency in organizing the picket line. Thirty artists in five Lower Manhattan loft buildings are to be evicted with all their possessions on Friday. The Fire Department has declared their buildings to be imminent hazards to life and property. The five buildings, located at 110 and 118 Centre Street, 52 Bond Street, 332 Bowery, and 236 Layayette Street, are all owned by an elusive gentleman known as "King of the Lofts," a Coney Islander named Seymour Finkelstein. The Fire Department has been chasing Finkelstein with summonses for violations for several years. Until last Friday when it took this final drastic step of throwing out his tenants, the Fire Department had been unable to lay hands on him. He was finally produced by his lawyer, Robert Bobrick, on Friday morning in the office of Fire Commissioner Edward Thompson...

The picketers' signs in front of the Museum were for the most part serious: ""Space for Art, Not for Artists," "Leonardo Had a Place to Paint, Why Don't We?" One sign, however, read: "Mona Is Not the Only One Who Needs a Leasa."

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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