Janet Goldner, 63, said there are times she finds her welding as an added handicapped in the search for finding studio space. “It’s not dangerous but people think its dangerous and my experience is that once people think its dangerous the conversation is over.” Photo By: Astrid Hacker
Janet Goldner, sat in her 300 square foot studio space in South Slope Brooklyn. Void of windows, her only ventilation is the hole in the center of the ceiling. It is the last room on a cold hallway of closed wooden doors and concrete floors. She is a welding artist, something she describes as an added difficulty when it comes to finding affordable space to work.
“Welding is particularly difficult to find a place you can do it in New York…it’s not dangerous, but people think it’s dangerous,” Goldner, 63, said.
She bought a loft in Tribeca, where she lives now, over 30 years ago. That’s where she used to weld before her neighborhood changed into what she described as “gentrified beyond anything.”
“Tribeca got too fancy to get welding gas deliveries,” Goldner said.
In recent years gentrification has taken New York by storm, boosting real estate prices, ushering in big businesses and giving a facelift to historically impoverished neighborhoods. Rents have risen and so have the cost of artist studios.
“Artists are paying more for less square footage,” said Jenny Dubnau, an organizer for the Artist Studio Affordability Project (ASAP), an effort that began in 2013 after a group of artists were priced out of their studio space in Sunset Park’s Industry City.
“My first workspace was probably about 50 cents per square foot: it was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the late 80’s,” Dubnau said.
Now, she said she pays about $2 per square foot, which is considered a “good deal” though it is at the higher end of what she and most artists can afford.
What artist paid $400 in the late 1980’s, they would pay roughly $1600 today for approximately the same amount of space.
Half of a 360 square foot shared studio space in East Williamsburg is going for $472.50 a month according to New York Foundation for the Arts, an organization dedicated to empowering artists and art organizations.
While tight living and workspaces are not unique to New York City they do present big challenges for working artists because the size of studio space effects the size of the work an artist produces.
“I cannot have a small space because I have big sculptures and I have to store it somewhere,” said Gabriel Koren, 68, an artist who creates life size sculptures.
The Hungarian born sculptor of life size African-American figures, said her work requires more space, which costs more money
She is currently facing eviction, due to a raise rent, that she can’t afford. She lives and works in a 1000 square foot studio space, that she says in unlivable, her move out date is Dec. 31st.
“I don’t know what will happen, I don’t know,” She said through tears. She has no where to put her work once the time comes for her to leave her DUMBO, Brooklyn studio.
“I don’t have a place to stage them and they can throw [them] to the garbage,” Koren said in tears over her Dec. 31st move out date.
Because Koren’s work is life size, her studio space has to be large enough to accommodate it, which she said could be upwards of $2500.
“I’m scared to death,” Koren said.
The city has made strides towards remedying this issue of affordable workspace, through mayor De Blasio’s initiative to have the city build 1,500 artist live-work spaces by 2024 for New York City’s artists, which is part of his Housing New York Five-Borough, Ten Year plan. But many artists feel that this will only benefit a small portion of artists and would much rather prefer separate living and work spaces.
“The projects that are coming down the pipe are like a drop in the bucket compared to the need,” said artist, Rejin Leys as she sat in her workspace that has dwindled to a small room on the second floor of her Jamaica, Queens home.
Leys, now in her 40’s has lived in New York City all her life and has had several work studios over the years, each move affecting the size of the work she creates.
“I feel like ideally housing and workspace would be addressed separately because there will never be enough artist housing for everyone,” Leys said.
She feels that the construction of live-work spaces in low-income areas essentially makes the incoming artists gentrifiers. While the needs of one community are met “there will still be a housing crisis for everyone else.”
This is why Leys said she, along with Dubau support ASAP’s efforts to secure “commercial space for people to work and housing for people to live” which she said will benefit artists, small business owners and local community members.
With all the efforts that have gone into addressing the issue of gentrification and its adverse effects on New York City’s artist community the fact remains that each artist faces unique issues with varying levels of severity.
“I feel like in the past I made it work better than I can figure out how to make it work now,” Goldner said. “It was expensive but possible, and now it’s expensive and impossible.”
Asteria Claure, 61, cheers on the New York City Marathon Runners, with a cowbell in one hand and chewable vitamins in the other, as the ran through Harlem. By Astrid Hacker
Wearing a neon vest with the word “coach” plastered across the front, Asteria Claure, 61, cheered on the 2015 New York City Marathon runners for the 12th consecutive year, as they ran through Harlem today. She knew how it felt having run in the marathon for 10 years.
“I was 16-years-old when I started to run, I was a track runner, a sprinter,” she said “When I turned 40 I started to run marathons.”
Claure has attended the marathon, as either a runner or supporter, since 1994. Born and raised in Bolivia, she said she had always loved sports, but none of them resonated with her like track and field.
“Running was the best for me, I learned to challenge myself,” she said. “When I was in basketball I used to get upset when I lost the game, I didn’t like it. I went into track, I was winning, I said it’s going to be on me.”
After graduating from college, Claure spent 20 years in Venezuela running and working as a physical education teacher and coach.
She said that it was a challenge that brought her to New York in 1994. A friend challenged her to run in the marathon and from there she fell in love with the New York City Marathon. She returned to Bolivia in 1995 and was invited to New York once again to take part in the World Champion Masters in Buffalo, N.Y.
“I came to the world champions and then after that I never went back to my country,” Claure said. “When I came to New York, the first thing I did is come to Central Park and look for the runners.”
Claure has since taken part in 15 marathons. She said that while she is still healthy she will continue to run and encourage others to do the same.
“Go Julie, don’t look down, hey, don’t look down,” Claure shouted to one of the runners. “Come on, don’t give it up.”
Armed with a cowbell in one hand, she screamed advice to the runners that were slowed down by leg cramps and encouragement to those weary from the run as they pushed on. This year Claure cheered as a member of the organization New York Road Runners (NYRR) Team for Kids. The organization encourages children to run, and she was there to support the members of the organization that were taking part in the race.
“I don’t just cheer them, I cheer to everybody because I’m a runner, I’m a coach,” she said and then pointed to her head. “Everything is here. If you are able to run 5k you are able to run a marathon, but you have to start training.”
She said that, for her, running is everything. It is her life.
“If I’m going to win it’s on me, if I’m going to lose it’s on me.”
Singer Taiwan Norris, practices at the Riverside Church in Harlem, NY in preparation for his Carnegie Hall debut.
Eric and Angie are bike riding across America to lose weight and bring attention to the nation’s high rate of obesity. Photo By Astrid Hacker
Eric Hites, better known as “Fat Guy Across America,” pedaled into Central Park a little after 9:30 today. It was one of many pit stops along his 3,200 mile trek across country that he started ten weeks ago in Massachusetts weighing 560 pounds. The Danville, Ind native has since lost 75 pounds and plans to continue pedaling his way to fitness.
“When I first started I was waiting for people to make fun of me for getting on a bicycle you know, and I got over that quick,” Hites said at the Leob Boathouse as he sat with his wife over breakfast.
Hites said that he could have tried to lose the weight at home, but it would have been easier to give up. He initially decided to bike his way from the east coast to the west coast in an effort to win back his wife and take back his health, which he expressed on his GoFundMe page. He took to the Internet last June to ask for $15,000 to fund his trip and has raised $11,292 so far.
“I probably would have given up if I was at home,” Hites said. “I think I threw myself to the wolves by starting far away from home so I have to, I don’t know, being far from home makes it so I’m forced to do it.”
About a month into his journey, Hites succeeded in his goal to win back his wife when she joined him on the road with a bike of her own and a determination to fight for their marriage.
“We’re learning so much about each other, what our weaknesses are, what our strengths are and what we need to do to balance each other out,” Hites’s wife, Angie, said as she looked towards her husband and smiled.
Since pedaling out of Massachusetts, Hites has gained so much support from people all over the country sending him well wishes and encouragement. Many of them feel a direct connection to him through his “Fat Guy Across America” Facebook page where he and his wife post daily updates and often respond to comments from his supporters.
“I am a teacher in Texas. Our class follows you on Facebook. Your story is inspiring us and we talk about your success everyday,” Dena Domenici Poteet of Greenville, Texas, wrote on the “Fat Guy Across America” Facebook page Wednesday night. “We do have one request. We suggest to change your name to “FIT” Guy Across America. That’s what we call you.”
Though things seem to be off to a more positive note Hites said that along the way things weren’t always so smooth.
“I looked like a homeless person there for a while with my trailer,” Hites said. I was driving through Tiverton, R.I. and someone saw my trailer and thought I was a scrapper.”
Hites said that when he started his journey it was more about him and less about the people watching him. Now, over 75 pounds lighter, he said that he hopes to bring awareness to America’s obesity epidemic.
According to the Center for Disease Control, over one-third or 34.9% of all American adults are obese.
“I kinda owe it to the supporters to bring the awareness and get other people exercising,” he said. “And now that we have the ‘Fat Guy Across America,’ we have all those people that I’m kinda responsible for to get them started on exercising.”
Hites started fatguyacrossamerica.com along with the FatGuyAcrossAmerica Facebook page to keep his supporters up to date on the progress of his journey. Once the trek is completed Hites plans to write a book on the experience.
Hites said that when he and his wife make it to California it won’t be the end but the beginning of their new life together. The couple plans to drive back to Indiana and take a few stops along the way to “do rides in each state.” He said that those stops are where he plans to focus on awareness.
“Get out and ride your first 500 feet and tomorrow ride 510, just keep building on it and then take a day off,” said Hites. “It’s your own speed, don’t judge yourself or everybody else. Do it your way.”