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Even as friends and colleagues of the artist critically injured in the April staircase collapse at Crane Street Studios in Long Island City prepared a fund-raiser to help with her expenses, the tight-knit creative community that used the building for workspace is preparing to pack its bags.
“Benefit for Nicole: A Postcard Show” runs Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art gallery at 547 W. 27th St. in Manhattan. The organizers are selling four-by-six-inch postcards contributed by a long list of artists for $40 apiece.
Jewelry designer Nicole Gagne, 37, was walking on a staircase on the outside of the building at 45-66 Crane St. April 10 when the stairs collapsed, sending her plummeting three stories. She was hospitalized in critical condition, but news reports indicated she is on the road to recovery.
“By organizing the twice-yearly open studios, she brought visibility and accessibility to a space normally isolated from the surrounding community,” her fellow artists wrote in a news release. “Her enthusiasm for the community compelled her peers to take action when Nicole became injured.”
But Gagne’s associates at Crane Street Studios now have until Aug. 22 to move their items out, said property owner Jerry Wolkoff, who could not reach an agreement with the city on how to legalize the artist studios in the 90-year-old building.
The city Department of Buildings issued an immediate vacate order on the building after the collapse and Wolkoff was fined $12,800 for various violations. Artists have not been allowed to return to work in the three months since the collapse, pending facade repairs and clearing the art studio for use with the city.
“It’s idiotic. I am upset. I am sick over it, but there’s nothing I can do,” Wolkoff said. “For me to get a certificate of occupancy to make studios, you’ve got to put glass walls in. What are you, crazy? That’d cost me a million dollars. I don’t make money on these as it is.”
DOB spokeswoman Carly Sullivan said Wolkoff submitted an application to legalize the studios in June, but the agency rejected it, noting several objections.
“If there’s issues, we make objections, they see those objections and then they revise the plan,” she said.
Wolkoff said the building, elaborately decorated by graffiti artists, may return to its industrial origins.
“I’m just going make it back to a factory,” he said. “It’s grandfathered in as a factory.”
What the change in use would mean for the 5 Pointz graffiti art program remained unclear. Program director Jonathan “MeresOne” Cohen did not return a phone call Tuesday.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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