Another one bites the dust. 30 yr old Woodworking co-op priced out of Greenpoint

Photo credit: Jason Speakman via Brooklyn Paper
Photo credit: Jason Speakman via Brooklyn Paper

In the fast-paced shell game of who is making money off of Greenpoint’s real estate scene, carpenters are getting no love these days. The Brooklyn Woodworkers Co-op–a Greenpoint carpenter collective– who has been sawing, slicing and molding wood for the last 30 years inside the Pencil Factory is now on the chopping block after being presented with, you guessed it, an insane rent increase.

Philippe Prelati, owner of Atelier Prelati who makes custom doors and member of the Brooklyn Woodworker’s Co-op, says the landlord is jacking up the rent from $20,000 to $55,000 a month—practically 3x’s what they are paying these days.

Who can afford the landlord’s new asking rent? The new tenants taking over the defunct woodshop will house a bar and coffee shop.

“It’s painful to end something that we’ve had for more than 30 years,” says Prelati when speaking with the Brooklyn Paper about the co-op’s displacement.

Damn straight it’s a loss given the sheer amount of talent and incredible woodwork coming out of the Pencil Factory space which crafted violins, custom cabinets and so much more.

Sadly, this isn’t the Co-op’s first brush with a massive change in neighborhood demographics. The group was forced out of their Brooklyn Heights space in the 1990’s—a result of  a citywide plan which forced manufacturing jobs out of select areas in favor of fancy high-ticket residences.

History seems to be repeating itself except for one a HUGE difference: The city isn’t helping the manufacturing industry set-up shop elsewhere as they had in the past. Nowadays, Brooklyn Woodworkers and other working artists are left scrambling to secure their livelihoods within a dwindling supply of warehouse spaces.

For now Philippe Prelati is setting up shop on Powers Street and Union Avenue, but the space is only big enough for his operation. “It’s going to be every expensive,” he says, having already spent $60,000 dollars on equipment he once shared with his fellow woodworkers.

Mr. Prelati is lucky to have found a space, but for the rest of the woodworkers, where they are taking their tools is currently unknown. Like the local lumberyard favorite–Lumber City & Building Supply, who recently shuttered their Williamsburg doors, woodworkers and lumber yards might have to look outside of NYC in order to survive. There is only such much space in those IBZ zones.

So there you have it Greenpoint, another creative collective has bit the dust. Remember when NYC was a cool place where people actually made stuff?  Now we’ve got AirBnb, Duane Reade and over-burnt coffee beans from Starbucks. Come on New York, where did you go and how can we lure you back? If Governor Cuomo can grant tax breaks for yachts and private airplanes, surely Albany can spread the love and give hardworking taxpayers who make NY great a break.

About Kim M

Kim is a native New Yorker, local activist and writer. When she's not writing books or playing Erin Brockovich with her Save Greenpoint peeps, you will see her whipping around Greenpoint on her bike, chatting it up with folks, and sharing stories about what it is about her hometown that makes life worth living. Follow her on twitter @kimasson or www.kimmassonwrites.com