Real estate interest group to study city rule that reserves Soho/Noho lofts for artists

July 06, 2012 11:00AM

Backed by real estate interests, the Soho/Noho Action Committee has secured $30,000 in funding, as part of its campaign to overturn a city zoning resolution that dates back to the 1970s, the Wall Street Journal reported. The law requires that all Soho and Noho industrial space-converted lofts be home to at least one city-certified artist or successor as resident, and that retail space use must be wholesale, without a special permit.

The committee asserts that this zoning law has outlived its original purpose, and the Journal reported that it has been ignored for years. The $30,000, raised by a group of Soho property owners, will be used for a survey to see how many city-certified artists live in the neighborhoods, and to see how many retail spaces have illegal occupation. An attorney named Margaret Baisley is reportedly in talks with the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College to begin the survey this month. The results of the study are expected to be released by fall.

But not everyone is in favor of getting rid of the resolution. Mimi Smith, a feminist artist who bought a loft in 1973, said that changing the law would “destroy Soho.”

She said of the effort to get rid of the artist ordinance, “It’s a real-estate ploy. They want more money for their lofts.”

As previously reported, a city-certified artist needs to be on file with the Department of Cultural Affairs. The DCA can only certify “fine” artists, like painters and poets, but not “interpretive” artists, such as actors, musicians and dancers. [WSJ]