The Real Deal New York

Loft law remakes illegal South Williamsburg dwelling

January 07, 2014 03:50PM

Life has changed for one bunch of Williamsburg loft dwellers who, thanks largely to the 2010 loft law, now legally inhabit their industrial space.

South Williamsburg’s 475 Kent Street, which was once home to a subletting Bill Murray and the late photojournalist Tim Hetherington, was evacuated in January 2008 when an illegal matzo factory in the basement was dubbed at risk of exploding. Firefighters also found broken standpipes and a faulty sprinkler system.

After the building’s evacuation, former tenants worked to rehabilitate the space, training in fire safety, mapping out floor plans and setting up a new sprinkler system. Many returned three months after the evacuation, and most are protected from rising rents because of the coverage they applied for under the loft law.

Now, the building has been reborn as a spacious spot that also serves as photography, printmaking and music studios looking over the East River, and the streets surrounding the building are changing gears from gritty industrial holdouts to boutique shops.

“I don’t love yuppies and Eurotrash, but the fact is it’s gotten more livable,” Guy Lesser, a writer and longtime resident at 475 Kent, told the New York Times. [NYT]Julie Strickland