Chair, Fine Arts Department
School of Visual Arts
Margaret D. Baisley
Esq., Real Estate Attorney
Professor, Department of Journalism, Baruch College, CUNY
Managing Director, AION Partners
Co-Chair of Landmarks Committee, Community Board 2, Manhattan
Donald H. Elliott
Counsel, Bryant Burgher Jaffe LLP, and Former Chair, New York City Planning Commission
Gallery Owner and Former President, SoHo Artists Association
Michael E. Levine
Director of Planning and Land Use, Community Board #1, The City of New York
Filmmaker and Artistic Director, Anthology Film Archives
Jack S. Nyman
Director, The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, Baruch College, CUNY
Partner, HR&A Advisors
The Intersection of Art and Real Estate
December 1, 2011
8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
SUBJECT: On the 40th anniversary of the zoning change that created live/work lofts for artists in SoHo we explore this example of planning reacting to, rather than initiating change and ponder the future.
Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo, a recent book by Roslyn Bernstein and Shael Shapiro, shows that SoHo is the result of the vision of one man. George Maciunas, founder of the Fluxus art movement conceived of Fluxhouses, where artists could live and work, as an artistic endeavor. Artists moved into lofts illegally, contrary to zoning. With a stake in the neighborhood, they were able to stave off Robert Moses and pressures for urban renewal and successfully lobby the City to enact zoning changes to allow them to live and work in their lofts.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, SoHo thrived as an artfocused mixed use neighborhood. As real estate prices started to rise, commerce pushed art out. Today, the character of SoHo reflects the high fashion, cosmetics, and home furnishings stores that occupy the ground floors. Many of these stores exist in spite of zoning laws designed to maintain a manufacturing character in the neighborhood and many loft owners are no longer certified artists, as required by the zoning.
What should be done? Can art survive as a vital component of this thriving mixed-use neighborhood? Should residential occupancy still be restricted to artists? Should retail stores be allowed to proliferate? Although landmarked, will the physical character of the neighborhood change? Can the City control future changes? The history and future of SoHo will be explored by stakeholders that include