Throwing shade: Lawsuit says artist-tenants foiled sale of Embee Sunshade building

Owner Barnett Brickner claims he was in contract to sell Williamsburg property for $25M

TRD New York /
Apr.April 07, 2016 05:11 PM

A group of Williamsburg artists are taking what might end up being a very expensive stand. The owner of Embee Sunshade Company, the Williamsburg-based umbrella manufacturer, is suing three of his tenants, accusing them of thwarting of his attempts to sell his warehouse property.

Barnett Brickner is suing Daniel Fay and Melanie Paterson, the married proprietors of arts organization Standard ToyKraft, along with fellow 722 Metropolitan Avenue tenant Jeremy Jacob Schlangen, seeking damages of $25 million, according to the lawsuit.

The umbrella maker says he was in contract to sell the property for that amount in late 2015, when the tenants filed an application with the city’s Loft Board “which they knew to be without merit and wholly frivolous,” seeking to establish the building as an Interim Multiple Dwelling.

The application allegedly “rendered performance of the [sales] contract impossible,” the suit stated.

The defendants, all visual and performance artists, rented studio space at the building, which Brickner’s family has owned since 1940. Standard ToyKraft, Fay and Peterson’s company, is “a 3,000 square foot art space dedicated to providing artists with low-cost studio and performance space,” according to a 2012 Indiegogo campaign website.

The sales contract called for the building to be delivered empty, with no existing leases. Fay and Paterson’s lease, which will expire later this month, was an exception, the suit alleges.

The building’s would-be buyer is unknown, as is the current status of the potential sale. A representative for Brickner declined to comment, and requests for comment from the three artists wasn’t immediately returned.

On the Standard ToyKraft website, Fay and Paterson argue that “artists are being forced to live on the margins” due to accelerating development in the city, adding that they “discovered a derelict factory floor” and turned it into a community organization.

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