An accident that caused the City of New York to close down an artist’s colony in Long Island City ended up revealing a close-knit community to the New York Times and spotlighting the generosity of one man:
The city’s Buildings Department ordered the largest of the buildings that make up the studios closed and issued a host of violations including unsafe conditions and putting up partitions to create the studios without a proper permit.
The complex’s owner, Jerry Wolkoff, said he was heartsick about the stairs’ collapse, and had used them often himself.
“It’s all solid concrete,” he said. “You couldn’t see this happening, but something caused it after all these years.” He said that the remaining exterior concrete stairs were being taken down on Friday with jackhammers, and that he planned to fix the lesser violations — replacing sprinkler heads, installing emergency lighting — and meet with the Buildings Department to get a proper certificate of occupancy.
“I’m working as hard as I can to get back the artists in there, as long as it’s feasible,” Mr. Wolkoff said. The agency said it was unclear when the order closing the studios would be lifted.
In the meantime, Crane Street’s artists are reeling, struggling with twin fears: that Ms. Gagne will not fully recover and that the building will not reopen. “If it breaks us all up, it will be a huge loss,” said Kim Luttrell, an artist who acts as like a den mother to the studios’ renters.
Ms. Luttrell called 911 after the accident on April 10, having heard the stairway collapse and then looking from her studio to see Ms. Gagne pinned by a concrete slab.
Ms. Gagne, a cherished member of Crane Street’s artist community, helped organize open studio walks there. She remained in Bellevue Hospital Center, where she was listed in serious condition on Saturday. Especially devastating, the artists say, was the feeling that the complex had hurt one of their own.
“The building is phenomenal, and it’s a treasure,” said Fred Feldmesser, an artist who has been in Crane Street for four years. Any concerns he had about the studios’ future, he said, were overshadowed by concerns over Ms. Gagne’s health.
One Artist Is Hurt and 200 Others Are Feeling Pain (New York Times)