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Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 1
Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of
Urban Policy, 1961-1971.
Fernando Ruiz is an urban historian dedicated to the study of
the relations between policy and urban environments. He
graduated from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico in
2014, from the master’s program in History at The City
College of New York in 2017 and is currently studying a MS
in Urban Policy and Leadership at Hunter College in New
York City. In 2015, his book La Cruz de Plazas.
Transformacion Urbana: Guadalajara 1947-1959, was
published as a result of the award granted by the National
Autonomous University of Mexico, the most recognized
university in Latin America.
In the 1960s an increasing demand for housing boosted the rent prices in different neighborhoods
of New York City, pushing low-income residents to more affordable areas of the city. Among
these displaced residents were artists, a group characterized by the low revenues of their work.
Gentrification and the boost on rents in the West Village, a place formerly preferred by artists,
pushed an exodus of artists, leading them to the vacant industrial buildings located in the area
South of Houston Street (Soho) in lower Manhattan. The high number of vacancies of loft
buildings represented a problem for landlords who could no longer maintain them leased because
of a decline in the manufacture industry in the area. Landlords pursuing income, and artists
requiring space, found in this engagement a suitable deal for both. Thus, the inexpensive Soho
buildings gave the artists’ community the opportunity to preserve their life-style of mixing living
and working space.
However, the industrial zoning regulations in this area prohibited the residential use of
these buildings, leading to two decades of negotiation with the city authorities for the
legalization of artists to live in lofts. During this period, the artists formed several associations,
two of them crucial in the fight to transform the zoning regulations to allow artists to live and
work in lofts: The Artist Tenants Association (ATA) and the Soho Artist Association (SAA).
Throughout a decade, these two associations transformed the destinies of both the artists and
Soho. As they pushed for regulations to secure the future of artists, they also monitored the steps
of city and state authorities, scrutinizing legislation that would directly affect their interests. The
cohesion and political involvement of the Soho artists through these associations contributed
directly to the creation of urban policies that allowed the industrial areas to become residential
but also secured the Soho area for the artists through special cultural programs.
Thus in 1961, the Artist Tenants Association, established by the artists and for the artists,
began the fight against the city in response to increasing numbers of artists evicted from lofts,
raising awareness about their legal struggles and creating awareness in society and government.
Their achievements would have a significant impact in advancing the first efforts to shape the
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
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city’s housing laws and zoning regulations to the benefit of the artists. However, this association
did not survive to see fulfilling triumphs.
Nonetheless, by 1969 a new organization, the Soho Artist Association, was founded,
which continued the negotiations with the city authorities for the creation of protective
legislation. Its major achievements were the Zoning Resolutions of 1971 that allowed the
transformation of Soho buildings for “joint living-work space.” However, even with these new
legal definitions, some inconsistencies remained. More refined legislation did not come to
fruition until the final changes in zoning regulations and housing provisions were made in 1981.
Ironically, it is with these legal achievements that the decline of the artistic community of Soho
begins. The attraction generated by the vibrant community and the legitimated residential status
unleashed a gentrification wave of wealthier tenants, prompting once more an exodus of the less
successful artists to outer areas. However, the coordination and political participation of these
groups allowed changes in urban policies, giving the legal framework for artists to establish a
community in Soho. Strong allies in the government and art institutions, but also the growing
popularity of renown artists in such associations, forced the authorities to focus their efforts in
solving the artists’ demands. Thus, the case of Soho artists illuminates the understandings of the
relation of politics and art, proving that social organization and political involvement can
positively shape our environment and objectives when taking the evolution of our destinies in
our hands.
The Artist Tenants Association
The Artist Tenants Association was formed in 1961, to petition the office of Robert Wagner,
then mayor of New York (whose brother was an artist),1
for permission to live in manufacturing
districts that were not officially zoned for habitational use, but more importantly to avoid
evictions of artists residing in lofts. Influential artists and members of the ATA including Helen
Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Ad Reinhardt, and Richard Stankiewicz, participated in the
1961 protests, taking advantage of their popularity to capture society and government attention.
One of the first agreements was the Artist in Residence (AIR) program, laid out vaguely to allow
artists who were recognized by cultural institutions to live in lofts. Other than negotiating with
the city, the ATA served as a centralized resource by disseminating information to artists and the
media, proposing boycotts and raising funds to support the artists’ cause. This association was
central in negotiating a more refined AIR program, amendments to the Multiple Dwelling Law
(MDL), and changes in the zoning regulations leading to a more formal movement to legalize
artists' occupation of loft buildings in SoHo, but also citywide.2
The first record of the beginning
of the ATA is marked by a telegram of Dan Koner, chairman of the ATA, from May 6, 1961,
directed to the Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey that reads:3
1
Richard Kostelanetz, SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony (New York: Routledge, 2003), 11.
2
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 124.
3
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.7, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
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Artist T.A. recently formed in effect to prevent eviction of N.Y. artists from their S. lofts.
Holding Rally Tues. May 9. Wash. I. H.S. 48 Ir. Pl. If artists unable retain work space
in N.Y. may have to relocate elsewhere. Would you offer relocate artists your city.
Permit us to release your message to press. Please wire.
The telegram states the purposes of the ATA in preventing evictions of artists but also
established the relevance of the artists in the city. For the association, if their claims were not
considered, the artists' community would look for alternatives for relocation to Hoboken, New
Jersey and by doing this, damaging New York City’s image as a cultural production center.
Thus, this telegram defines the purposes and strategies the ATA followed to address the artists’
issues in the fight to legalize conversion of lofts to residential use. The ATA recognized the need
to shape the urban policies to allow the new adoptions, ensuring at the time the cultural destiny
of the city.
The ATA’s telegram also had its foundations in the attitudes taken by the Fire Department
and its commissioner Edward F. Cavanagh, who, after a series fires in the Soho area buildings,
pushed for the removal of its unlawful occupants. On February 27, 1961, he released a statement
to the press called: “No Beatnik Pads in the Loft Bldgs. Ruled a Hazzard By Fire Dept.”4
Among
other things, the statement notes that this was not an “anti-cultural” movement but an effort to
protect the lives of those who live in the so-called “Hell’s Hundred Acres,” an area containing
several neighborhoods where twenty persons including seven firemen were killed in blazes since
1959, at a time when artists began a quiet invasion of Soho lofts.5
Ironically, few if any of these
units were in Soho.6
The commissioner recognized that this area became popular for living
purposes after these people had been pushed out of the West Village, a neighborhood that had
already suffered from gentrification. Also, it is stated that fifty teams of inspectors found 228
makeshift apartments in this area, many of them illegally occupied. For the inspector, the illegal
occupation of buildings represented not only a fire hazard but a threat to public health. By this
year, from the approximately 3,000 buildings in this area, 20 had already been vacated and the
commissioners aimed to ask the Department of Buildings for help in their efforts to prevent fire
and health hazards. For him the primary threat was the poor fire protection of these buildings, but
also because of the low profile and isolation maintained by the illegal residents, which made it
difficult to identify which buildings were occupied in the case of an emergency.
The considerations of the Fire Department thus had their basis in the actual dangers that the
industrial buildings represented for residential use. The irregularity of these buildings allowed
unusual conditions, overcrowding, lack of light and ventilation, and excessive densities in an
area not designed to host permanent residents to complicate the Fire Department job. Thus,
fearing unanticipated evictions, artists demanded permission from the authorities to inhabit lofts.
The ATA was drawing the attention of the press, and this was crucial in catching the
sensitivities of the public on the relevance of the artists to the city. A Herald Tribune article of
the date announced in the telegram, May 9, 1961, called “Seek Public’s Aid Against Fire Dept.
4
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.4, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
5
James R. Hudson, The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan (Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1987), 79.
6
Richard Kostelanetz, SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony (New York: Routledge, 2003), 11.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
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Artists of the City Unite to Save Their Garrets”7
describes one of the first public demonstrations
of the ATA, that occurred that night: “The artists of New York fighting to save their garrets, will
appeal for public backing at a mass meeting tonight to prevent the city from becoming a cultural
wasteland. […] Without public support, the loft cause may become a lost cause.” Artists were
more aware both of their fragile situation to fight the city authorities without the support of the
social sector, but also in recognizing the importance of the cultural production of the city, using
this as a flag to represent their cause.
Artist-tenants quickly began to express fear of the “mass evictions,” noting that hundreds
had already been evicted and that approximately another 20,000 artists remained in similar
conditions. In finding solutions to this issue, the ATA shows interest in alternatives like
Hoboken, New Jersey, or San Francisco, California, to relocate the community, asking its
respective mayors for asylum if the “cruel persecution forces them to become refugees.”8
However, the artists were far from being ignored; prominent characters expressed their sympathy
for the artists’ struggle. From a national perspective Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the
United States, called on culture-conscious New Yorkers to support the artists’ cause, stating: “I
find it hard to believe that the Administration and people of this great city, once they are
informed of this situation, would stand idly by and allow our artists to be dispersed.” Also, James
J. Rorimer, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, urged the city to “favor the artists,
wherever possible. For it is the work of the artist that contributes to the soul of the nation.” With
this, the ATA proves its efficacy in making their claims public. Calling the attention of
influential actors, they achieved awareness of their situation from both society and city
authorities, stating at the time their single purpose of having an affordable place to live and work
after having been pushed out by wealthy tenants from the West Village. Their biggest fear was
being evicted once again from their lofts in Soho.
The results of the rally on May 9, 1961, were immediately visible the next day. An article
from the New York Post from May 10, 1961, titled “Eases Stand on Artist Lofts,” speaks about
considerations made by Commissioner Cavanagh from the Fire Department and negotiations in a
meeting with De Kooning. A New York Herald Tribune article from the same date named
“Cavanagh Lends Ear To Laments of Artists,” also talks about a sympathetic attitude to the
artists, referring to talks maintained with Dan Korner, president of the ATA, and Mayor Wagner
in relation to the mayor’s interest in the artists concerns expressed to the media. One of the
reasons Mayor Wagner supported the artists was because he was running for re-election for the
mayor’s office the fall of 1961; thus, he found in the artists an ally for his campaign.9
Even the
New York Times wrote an article about the city’s willingness to cooperate with the artists.
Another report from the Village Voice on May 18, 1961, recalls the successful results of a
meeting between Cavanagh and the celebrated artists Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and
others. Thus, the efforts of the ATA worked to raise their allegations to the public eye, and with
7
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.8, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
8
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.8, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
9
Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
1989), 50.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 5
this, they forced the authorities to consider solutions for the community.10
Also, some of the
members of the ATA had connections with the political powers of the city, including the
Department of Cultural Affairs.11
Nonetheless, talks with the Commissioner of the Fire Department and public awareness of
the artists’ plight proved not to be enough to mobilize the authorities to reshape the provisions to
comply with the fire and sanitary codes of the MDL. The anxieties of the ATA demonstrated to
be stronger than the patience public administrators required to bring a change in policy, and by
June 14, 1961, the association issued a statement in response to the increased publicity and threat
of evictions:
The announcement in the New York press on February 27 of wholesale evictions from
studio-lofts was, in effect, a declaration that the haphazard harassment to which artists
in New York City have long been subjected had hardened into a deliberated policy.
Since then, artists have been evicted from lofts in ever-increasing numbers, sometimes
on eight hours’ notice, often on the most questionable pretext. The Artist Tenants
Association has employed all available means—proposals, discussions, meetings with
city officials, rallies, telegrams, radio and TV shows, newspaper and magazine
articles—in an effort to defend the right of artists to use lofts, but without any effect on
the city administration.12
This press release shows the frustrations experienced by the artists, yet they relate their
issues to the “deliberated policy” that evictions signified for them, thus neglecting the unsafe
conditions the buildings represented. Nonetheless, they used every available channel of
communication to make their plights public and reach them to the city administrators. The
release reads as follows:
Whether or not the city fathers realize it, artistic activity in this community will be
wiped out. Rather than submit to this process, let us withdraw as artists from the life of
the community and demonstrate to the city the effect of its administrators’ policies. Let
us see if that will matter to anyone.
When the city wants baseball, bingo, business or breweries, it passes laws to make these
enterprises possible. If it wants us in New York, it can pass laws to make our existence
here possible.
It has become clear that we cannot hope to combat official harassment with legal or
political maneuvers. At the same time, our plight has gone beyond questions of
legalities and political expediency. It has become a moral issue; and it is there that, as
artists, we can act.13
10
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.9, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
11
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 124.
12
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
13
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
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The ATA reveals a clear sense of dismissal from the authorities, demanding immediate
attention from the government, in what for them has become a “moral issue” in relation to the
perception that art was placed in a secondary stand. Furthermore, since this early stage, the ATA
acknowledged the value of artistic production in the city and considered this a matter that should
be primary in the government's agenda. The ATA recognized that passive negotiations would not
lead them to achieve their ambitions to legalize loft-living, and politics and legalities represented
a mishap about which they were willing to act. Thus, plans for a boycott on September 11, 1961,
were prepared:
To implement our actions, it is proposed:
1. That artist not cooperate as artists in any public activity in New York, either by
exhibiting, appearing on TV or radio, or lecturing in public;
2. That artists not send their work to any gallery or museum in New York, nor show
their work to the public in their studios;
3. That artists not attend any exhibition in any gallery or museum in New York;
4. That artists not cooperate with the showing of their work in any gallery or museum
in New York and, if possible, withdraw works on loan or held on consignment;
5. That artists urge the artists of other cities, both in the United States and abroad, not
to send their work to any gallery or museum in New York;
6. That this action take effect on September 11, 1961, until such a time as the New
York City administration makes it clear to our representatives that artists may work
in New York without official harassment.14
These statements prove that the consciousness of the ATA was crucial in shaping the
strategies to push the authorities in the development of policies to benefit their interest, to allow
the residential status for lofts, but also to ensure the cultural production of New York City. The
release shows a selection of names among the hundreds of members of the ATA who were
intended to participate in the boycott of September 11, 1961, and signed by the association’s
chairman, James Gahagan. This document acknowledges that when the authorities are
overlooking the needs of a community, and the suitability of the administration is not favoring
the legal process, a manifestation of power might be heard by showing the relevance of their
functions and depriving society of its contributions.
The ATA statements for a planned boycott had an overwhelming resonance in the New
York press. A significant number of articles described the aggressive actions of the association.
The New York Post reads on June 26, 1961 “STRIKE,” regarding the artist boycott planned for
September 11, in The Kingston Daily Freeman an article of July 3, 1961, called “Artists Driven
Out of Garrets, Consider Strike” describes that the ATA has sent letters to 1,000 artists,
proposing an art stoppage for September 11, in relation to the concerns generated by the actions
of the Fire Department. And by July 3, the New York Times writes, “Artist Might Strike to Save
Lofts,” making mention of Willem de Kooning, Ad Reinhardt, and Richard Stankiewicz, as
14
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 7
celebrated artists.15
The ATA’s statement seems to have been reproduced in every New York
City newspaper, showing the power the association had to get the public’s attention.
Furthermore, by threatening the withdrawal of artistic production from the city, they successfully
demonstrated that this was a matter for public awareness. The “city fathers” realized that creative
activity in New York City could not be wiped out, and they listened. More importantly, during
the agitation of the planned boycott, the ATA made a strong political ally, Congressman John V.
Lindsay, who became New York City Mayor in 1966, and during his administration sided with
the artists.16
The boycott planned for September 11 never happened. The threat that artists would shut
down art galleries, stopping art consumption and therefore causing economic repercussions,
influenced the city authorities to agree on a prompt solution for the artists. On August 15, 1961,
an agreement by New York City officials and the ATA was reached, known as the “Artist in
Residence” (AIR) program. This agreement specifies the set of conditions required for a building
to qualify for registration, such as adequate means of egress in case of fire, a notice of occupancy
by the artist with the Department of Buildings, and a sign that reads “AIR” to notify any fireman
responding an emergency call that artists reside there. To meet such requirements, the city
agencies permitted artists to have their working and living quarters in loft studios.17
From 1961 to 1963 artists began to register for the AIR program. With this, it was expected
that the massive evictions would come to an end and the artists would enjoy certain liberty to
populate lofts. Yet, less than 10% of the art community living in lofts applied for AIR.18
Even if
many artists showed reluctance to participate in this program, it made public officials question
their willingness to be responsible citizens.19
This was also related to the difficulties of the
buildings to comply not with the fire and sanitary conditions, but with the zoning codes. Also,
the vague legal language and the lack of specification in this early agreement brought back the
artists’ evictions from lofts. By December 1963, “the city began to refuse AIR registrations on
the basis of zoning. City officials stated that an administrative mistake caused them to overlook
the fact that artists were illegally receiving legal registration to live in lofts in M1 and C8 zones
(heavy and light manufacture areas), which they had recused as out-of-the-bounds for living.”20
The AIR program was a “fiasco,” said Ruth Richards, an ATA official.21
However, a report by
city authorities in 1963 estimated that a total of three thousand families were living in lofts,
almost all of which were illegal.22
With this, the basis for a legal battle was set, an arduous path
15
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.13-20, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
16
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.14, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
17
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
18
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
19
James R. Hudson, The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan (Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1987), 80.
20
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
21
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 125.
22
Richard Plunz, A History of Housing in New York City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 315.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
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to achieve compelling and clear legislation fitted to the artists’ needs. By March 1963 the ATA
proved once again their commitment to confronting the administrative problems and gaps left in
the policy-making process.
On March 13, 1963, the ATA proposed an Amendment to the MDL of the State of New
York, transferring their claims to the state level after negotiations with the city failed. The MDL
specifies the codes of occupation for multiple dwelling sites and prevents them from
overcrowding, inadequate provisions for light and air, inadequate provisions for escape from fire,
and improper sanitation, which are hazardous to the health, safety, morals, and welfare of
citizens of the state.23
Then, a proposed amendment written by Senator MacNeil Mitchell to the
MDL was introduced to both houses of the New York State Legislature to secure the loft studios
for the artists of this state, and particularly the artists of New York City.24
This proposed
amendment sought to put an end to the inability of the city to legislate changes in the state law.
With this amendment, artists would be able to occupy buildings that the regulations of the New
York City Building Department did not allow, because their strictness made just a few buildings
capable of complying with the rules. The logic used by Senator Mitchell in the writing of this
proposition explains that if the aims of the MDL are to ensure minimum health and safety
requirements for residents, a building under commercial standards that promotes similar
regulations for employees can thus work for residential purposes. He concludes that: "It is of
course infinitely safer for eight people to occupy a building than forty people plus machinery to
occupy the same building.”25
The ATA in cooperation with Senator Mitchell improved its strategies by providing the
government a legal guide for assessing the artists' requirements, expecting that, by amending the
complexities of the statutory language, the problem could be solved. The ATA closed this
proposal by stating, “If this Amendment to the Multiple Dwelling Law is not successful and the
lofts come down, this voice, this artists force, in all actuality, will be stilled.”26
Thus, the ATA
proved an association capable of developing strategies to battle the different fronts in the struggle
for lofts legalization. However, the fears of the ATA became real; the approach to amend the
MDL did not work as expected, and the proposal failed.
The members of the ATA did not surrender, and the efforts to resolve the legislation in their
favor continued by retaking the strategy of public demonstration. On April 3, 1964, an
approximated 1,00027
members of the arts community marched to City Hall.28
Delegates from
23
New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/pdf/MultipleDwellingLaw.pdf
consulted on May 2017.
24
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
25
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
26
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
27
The real numbers of the participants in the march differ, the New York World-Telegram and Sun mentioned 500
that day, the New York Times said 1000, the Herald Tribune 600, the Village Voice also mentioned 1000. Artist
Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p. 57,58,59,60, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
28
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 9
the ATA met with representatives of the City Planning Commission to discuss new zoning
resolutions, but also with the Office of Cultural Affairs. However, the negotiations in various
meetings during these days did not resolve the problems of the zoning regulations not allowing
residential use. During such demonstrations, the ATA gained more political allies and counted
on the support of art galleries and major museums. “On April 3, 1964, the ATA coalition
demonstrated its strength. Close to ninety commercial galleries closed for the day in sympathy.
Representatives of the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum joined with the
artists in meetings with officials from the Planning commission and the mayor’s office.”29
The
institutional support of the major art institutions of the city allowed the artists to dramatize the
economic relevance of the art.
Marches and meetings were not offering the needed zoning changes, which was the
necessary solution for artists to live in lofts, and the ATA once more planned a boycott. A
document from July 6, 1964, titled “Negotiations with the city, begun after our April 3
demonstration, have collapsed!,”30
explains that the “Mitchell” amendment to the MDL did not
gain the anticipated effect because the city would not allow the registering of lofts in high and
light industrial zones. Ironically, these areas were abundant in numbers of loft buildings. This,
once more unchained considerations for a boycott on museums and art galleries, relying this time
on the support of the Museum of Modern Art, but again, the boycott did not happen. The ATA,
instead, urged artists to donate funds to keep the fight and the association alive, raising
awareness that the city authorities could decide to raze the buildings at any time, restating the
relevance of keeping their living-work spaces and the need to keep pushing the government for a
legislation to satisfy their claims. And yet, the popularity generated by the ATA struggles in the
media, originated an increase in the number of artists moving to the area. But also, around this
time, “art culture was further legitimized by new philanthropic housing for artists,”31
offering
alternatives for the less affluent artists.
The ATA memorandums fail in documenting a significant event occurring around this
period, perhaps because of the rapid succession of events, or because the files are lost. However,
the newspapers did follow the signing of the first bill in consideration of the artists. Just before
an established deadline on April 24, 1964, the unanticipated signing of the “Loft Bill,” or the
Article 7B of the MDL by governor Nelson Rockefeller, happened. The governor “signed a bill
liberating the law permitting artists and families to occupy loft buildings,”32
and in an article by
the Village Voice of April 30, 1965 named “Rockefeller Signs Loft Bill, Artist Await City
Action,” specific mentions to the ATA are made and members such as Wilhelm De Kooning,
Ibram Lassaw, Marisol and Jack Tworkov, and Robert Henry, a member of the ATA’s board.
They were on the front lines to expose the artists needs to the governor, backed by local
politicians and art museums from New York City. It is also stated that:
29
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 125.
30
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 10, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
31
Richard Plunz, A History of Housing in New York City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 315.
32
In a New York Times article from April 26, 1964. Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder
21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p. 63, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 10
The experimental bill, which expires in 1968, goes into effect immediately. It applies to
“persons regularly engaged in the visual fine arts, such as painting and sculpture, on a
professional fine arts basis.” The artist must be certified by an art academy, association,
or society recognized by the City Office of Cultural Affairs or the State Council on the
Arts. There will be “no difficulty” in setting up the certification machinery, according to
spokesman from the City Administrator’s Office. The measure was sponsored by
Senator MacNeil Mitchell”33
With the addition of Article 7-B to the MDL, under the guidelines of the AIR program,
which specified the qualifications for an artist to register, the ATA established a significant
victory for the artists, ensuring compelling legislation that made it legal for artists to inhabit
lofts. However, this bill was “experimental,” and this can be related to the undefined prospects
for the sustainability of the new zoning uses and the real state competitivity for other purposes
beyond loft legalization. On the positive side, article 7-B recognized artists and their relevance to
the city, and thus their need for special housing provisions. But a negative part of this article was
that it made it difficult for landlords to comply with the requirements of the fire codes.34
Even if this victory was decisive, the relevance of the ATA gains a significant advantage, by
being and strategic member in the efforts to build and transform legislation to favor the purposes
of artists. However, after this significant victory, the activities of the ATA declined, and the
records show only small monitoring of events and information dissemination, disconnecting the
ATA from the developments that happened in future urban policies. With the complexities of the
fire codes and the unwillingness of landlords to comply with them, illegal living resumed as it
was before 1964. Artists simply put up AIR signs to warn the firemen but did not notify the
Buildings Department to prevent a visit by the city inspector.35
The ATA documents show that
the association continued to hold meetings at least until March 12, 1967,36
but what happened in
the last meetings remains unknown. The last document emitted by the ATA in May 1967 is
about the new considerations taken in the AIR program, and the instructions to be followed for
those applying for it.37
The future negotiations with the city authorities to improve the previous legal achievements
of the ATA were followed by the Soho Artist Association (SAA), who started to emit records in
1969. The SAA led the path for the zoning resolutions of 1971 and future MDL amendments.
The connection between these two associations is unclear, however, in the collection of SAA
files, some documents with the ATA letterhead regarding meetings in 1961, are found.38
A
recording from the first meeting of the SAA on June 5, 1970, refers to the ATA as an advisor in
the strategies the SAA should follow to achieve their political aims, and some members seemed
33
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p. 63, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
34
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 126.
35
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 126.
36
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 14: Meeting Announcements, 1966-1967, p.6,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
37
Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968,
p. 17, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
38
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Printed Matter, 1961-1971, p 1-3, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 11
confused by identifying the SAA as the ATA.39
The remission of the ATA activities could be
connected to the different zoning proposals and the creation of various groups for particular
purposes in each neighborhood; for Sharon Zukin the interests of the ATA were to remain
“illegal” because some artists thought that would maintain the low rent. Furthermore, the SAA
members lived mostly in co-op lofts where they were owners rather than renters, and they
wanted a raise in their property value.40
This set an interesting dichotomy in the interests of both
associations: even if both wanted to build an artistic community in New York City, the economic
interests involved led the associations to follow different strategies, favoring the formation of
different groups to pursue specific interests. The ATA worked citywide and the SAA was mainly
focused on Soho artists.
The Soho Artists Association
The Soho Artists Association was formed in 1969 with the purpose to assist artists residing in
New York City, to support the city as the visual arts capital of the world, and to ensure working
and living conditions in the loft buildings of Soho.41
Moreover, the primary purpose of this
association was to protect the artists’ homes from being torn down by developers.42
The SAA, as
well as the ATA, shared similar purposes in benefit of the artists, yet, the documentation does
not show if they also share membership. Outstanding members of the SAA were Gerhardt
Liebmann, Ely Raman, and Vincent Cahill. The SAA kept track of the creation of legislation for
artists living in Soho, and nothing more than this area South Houston bounded by Houston,
Canal, Broadway, and West Broadway. This characteristic is related to its interest in this area,
and their economic investment in housing. Other associations also existed in different
neighborhoods to represent their interests. Even if the SAA enclosed an area of influence, its
leadership would have an impact in New York City and beyond.
By April 22, 1969, the first informal meeting was held to discuss problems experienced
by some members in matters of illegal tenancy. Also considered was the position the SAA
should take before the city authorities as a negotiator for urban policies to favor the artists, and to
work with the allies they have in the City Planning Commission (CPC). Ely Raman stated a
smart point that would define the success of the association: “artists must learn to lobby as does
the Rifle Association—hit when and where it does the most good.”43
This meeting was
summoned because of the actions taken by the CPC; a Village Voice article from April 12, 1969,
named “City Won’t Make Loft Living Legal,”44
shows the position of the CPC rejecting the
39
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 6: SoHo Artists Association Meeting, 1970 June 5,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
40
Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
1989), 121.
41
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972,
p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
42
Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
1989), 116.
43
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972,
p. 4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
44
Soho clippings folder, file, N353, Archives of the New York City Municipal Library.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 12
creation of a “special artists' district" in Soho. However, the article shows the disposition of the
commission in broadly studying the case. Since 1968, the CPC was researching how to develop a
strategy that would work for the artists, and very detailed documentation from this year shows its
commitment to resolve this issue by modifying the zoning codes, the only way to make lofts
usable for residential purpose. From September 16 to 20, 1968, a survey of vacancy and artists
occupancy was made in Soho. This was to understand the evolution of the area over time, and
thus determine if a zoning change was needed.45
Figure 1, Meeting of the SoHo Artists Association “Planning Committee.” SoHo Artists Association records,
1968-1978 Box:1 Folder 20: Photographs, 1970-1971, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
From 1968 to 1970, the intervention of the city authorities in Soho augmented, and the
SAA worked as the coordinating committee to manage “SoHo’s foreign relations” to deal with
the municipal authorities and to represent artists.46
Soho-specific interests “required that its
leadership cultivate sympathetic, knowledgeable, and essentially personal relationships with city
planners, lawyers, and architects.”47
Thus, the SAA mastered the strategies of the organization to
achieve their purposes in an integrated plan to attack different fronts. One of these characteristics
45
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 14: New York City Planning Commission, Reports
and Blueprint Copies, 1968-1971, p. 21, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
46
James R. Hudson, The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan (Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1987), 85.
47
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 165.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 13
of the SAA48
described by Sharon Zukin in her interviews to artists made in the summer of 1980
is that they counted on the support of wealthy people, a member of the SAA explained:
We had gallery owners. Many of us worked in schools and universities. There were
wealthy collectors we had sold to. There were very influential artists in the area –
Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Indiana, Julie Judd [wife of Minimalist artist Donald
Judd] – who could call on curator and museum board members. Others of us had only
an occasional wealthy person who had bought something from us. We all put together
the names on who we could talk to and found that between us we had a rather
impressive list. It ranged from people who had nothing to do with art, like the chairmen
of the boards of banks, to curators and international art dealers. We started to call these
people up to let them know, ‘Hey, there's a unique phenomenon going on right here that
nobody knows about, and if we don't do something, it'll be destroyed.49
The words of this artist reflect the character of an association that understood the
integrity, legitimacy, and power of the artists, reflecting the modus operandi of the association
that carefully followed the unfolding of policy-making in close relations with city administrators.
The CPC and the Department of Cultural Affairs maintained contact with the SAA to keep them
informed of the advances made by the city. In these meetings, they discussed the latest city
proposals and offered a synopsis of Soho history and its relation to the city, keeping records of
their advances in historical detail.50
On June 5, 1970, a meeting with representatives of these
institutions and the SAA revealed the progress made on the matter of urban policy that will affect
the artists. This meeting was held to inform the SAA members about the CPC "Loft City" plan to
make lofts buildings legal for residential purpose. Ely Raman and Gerhart Liebmann directed the
meeting where Mike Levine from the CPC presented a package that incorporated many of the
loft buildings in Soho and surrounding neighborhoods. However, the plans did not cover all the
buildings, and some artists would not be beneficiated. This generated controversy among some
members such as Vincent Cahill, who sought a more comprehensive plan to favor all the artists
residing in Soho. Over the discussion, Doris C. Freedman from the Department of Cultural
Affairs exposes a point, suggesting that they should take the plan as it is, because this would
offer legal status for most of the artists—a significant advance considering that none of them
have this status at the moment. Another interesting point considers that the artists have to
remember that they are not the only ones competing for this land and that if they do not take this
opportunity, they can compromise all the efforts made.51
That same day, the SAA members held
voting to decide if they would accept the CPC’s plans. And from the 125 voters, 112 voted yes to
48
Zukin and Simpson make references to the Soho Artists Association as the SoHo Artists’ Tenants’ Association,
but the evidence proves they are referring to the same SAA, and this might represent an error in the vocabulary used
in their investigations.
49
'Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
1989), 116.
50
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 165.
51
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 6: SoHo Artists Association Meeting, 1970 June 5,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 14
approve the CPC "Loft City" plans.52
This plan would cover an area of 44 acres in the space
between Broadway, Centre, Worth and Grand Street, but cutting off from the project the south
corner of Soho.
After this meeting on September 23, 1970, the CPC held a public hearing on the proposal
to legalize artists’ loft occupancy in Soho, understanding the value of the artistic community, and
stating the need of adopting new zoning regulations. However, the document also explains the
complexities of the zoning distributions of the city, and therefore the complicated task of the
elaboration of new Zoning Resolutions.53
The SAA was ready to make its voice heard in the
hearing, and among the direct demands for this, they elaborated on a careful plan of how to
shape the CPC perceptions in favor of the artists’ demands. In an announcement, the SAA urged
its members to send letters to the CPC and some specific members to expose their interest in the
changes to the urban policies. Asking for the support of the cultural community with their
participation and/or presence in the hearing, they also informed the artists of the following
administrative steps after the adoption of new legislation by the CPC.54
These strategies show a
more prepared association which attacks the city authorities from different flanks, cooperates in
the production of compelling plans to shape the zoning regulations, and participates in public
hearings, but also invades the public authorities and departments with letters expressing their
demands.
During this hearing, Gerhart Liebmann asked the city authorities to place a moratorium
on artists’ evictions until the legalization of artists’ housing was properly surveyed.55
Also in a
Village Voice article of October 1, 1970,56
the participation of the SAA members in the public
hearing is described. It is said that over 40 artists testified, including landlords and other
members of the community, joined with a statement of Mayor John V. Lindsay to urge the CPC
to rezone the Soho district. It also mentions a movement Mayor Lindsay made in 1969, declaring
a moratorium on artists' evictions. These actions illuminate the close relation the SAA and the
mayor had, but also his interest in the artists’ cause. The mayor stated, “The creation of a Soho
artists’ district will ensure New York’s position as the art capital of the nation and one of the
great creative centers of the world.” The sympathy of Mayor Lindsay was crucial for the
advances in urban policies achieved for the artists.
The close relation of Mayor Lindsay and the SAA also had an international connotation.
The SAA gained global coverage and papers in France and Germany talked about the artists in
New York.57
At the same time, the State Department was investing in propaganda strategies
called the “Cultural Presentations.” an international and cultural diplomatic effort to promote
52
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 7: Proposal Ballot, 1970 June 5, Archives of
American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
53
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972,
p. 8, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
54
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972,
p. 9, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
55
The New York Times, Sep. 23, 1970. “Artists Vote for Union and a Big demonstration.”
56
Soho clippings folder, file, N353, Archives of the New York City Municipal Library.
57
Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
1989), 117.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 15
American art.58
Thus, the State Department influenced local politics elevating the need to
preserve artists to claim New York City as a cultural capital.
For the ATA, 1961 resulted in a busy year for political participation and achievements;
for the SAA, 1971 was the year. On December 9, 1970 and then on January 6, 1971, the CPC
held a public hearing on the proposed change. During this hearing, new Zoning Resolutions were
discussed to change the zoning codes for the Soho area. These changes adopted on January 20,
1971 included the reassigning to M1-5A and M1-5B districts specially designed to permit joint
living-work quarter for artists.59
The Zoning Resolutions signed during the administration of
Mayor John V. Lindsay, a close ally of the artists since the times of the ATA, brought a solution
for the problems left by the amendments made in 1961 during Mayor Robert F. Wagner period.
With this, the Zoning Resolutions are shaped to agree with the SAA demands, legalizing the
transformation of these areas for residential purposes, where the artists could also find a working
space. With this, the SAA had its first significant victory, simplifying the path for artists to live
and work in lofts.
The political strategies and involvement of artists worked for the SAA, yet, there was
another loophole left by the 1964 MDL that sketched the legal framework, which allowed artists
to live in lofts. On May 5, 1971,60
an act to repeal section 279 of the MDL was introduced by the
Senate of the State of New York and by July 2, 1971,61
and was passed into law. This
amendment amplified the definition of artists and, more importantly, deleted section 279, which
specifies that the “experimental bill” of 1964 was to be terminated on December 31 of 1968, thus
eliminating part of the problems found in the legal codes. After seeing their goals fulfilled with
the zoning legislation for Soho in 1971, "nearly every member of the original SAA Coordinating
Committee had resigned."62
In the records of their aftermaths, the only survivor was the SAA
Newsletter, traceable until 1973.63
The different interventions of the ATA and SAA were reflected in the actions taken by
the city authorities. The public demonstrations and the political involvement of both associations
in the process of urban policy-making obtained, as a result, a neighborhood specially designed
for the artists to have the freedom to develop their talents. The complexities of the issue of re-
zoning the city presented several difficulties for the planners; the city sought for a solution to
these problems and understood the relevance of the artists for the city. Eventually, they reached
an agreement.
The protection offered by the legal framework had an impact on the activities of the
SAA. During 1971, the documentation showed an interest in informing the associates how to
58
See: Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015).
59
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and
Calendars, 1967-1971, p.20, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
60
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and
Calendars, 1967-1971, p. 6, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
61
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and
Calendars, 1967-1971, p. 10, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
62
Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 189.
63
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 11: Newsletters, SoHo Newsletter, 1970-1973,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 16
transform and invest in their lofts to make them comply with the law.64
But by July 14, 1971,
amendments were added to restrict expansions in lofts.65
Interestingly, in the same fashion as the
ATA, the SAA stopped producing records. It seems that after significant achievements, activity
in both associations decreases. A new successor for the SAA was created, now under the name of
“SoHo Alliance.” This volunteer community organization was founded in 1981, to work as
“neighborhood watchdogs.” Working with elected officials and city agencies to ensure the
preservation of Soho.66
Future developments of this organization are not traced in this research.
However, the final resolutions that put an end to the legal battle to make Soho buildings
qualify for the artists’ joint-living work spaces did not fill the loopholes in the MDL. Future
modifications were needed because article 7-B, designed to simplify the recycling of industrial
buildings, did not specify the legal framework regarding the responsibilities or obligations of
each of the parts (tenant-landlord). Thus on 1977 article 7-C was added to establish a better
definition of the limits and reaches of both. At the end, these amendments to the MDL and the
Zoning Resolutions had a significant impact, legalizing the use of lofts throughout Manhattan.
Conclusion
The Artist Tenants Association and the Soho Artists Association had its relevance in the capacity
to shape the urban policies to favor their purposes. These associations were established by the
artist and for the artist, to begin a one-decade journey of battles and negotiations with the city
authorities. The cohesion of their members proved to have successful results to fulfill their
demands. However, it is also correct that over time, the purposes of each association changed.
For the ATA, it was more important to battle the evictions of artists from lofts. Part of its
members did not show cohesion when improvements in the law to secure their legal status were
needed. Even if the archives do not illuminate the answers over these attitudes, secondary
sources show that the interest of the members of the ATA did not seek to become completely
legal, fearing that this would represent an increment in their housing expenses. History proves
that this fear was genuine. Thus, the relevance of the ATA lies in its capacity to raise the
awareness of city authorities and society over the significance of the artists in the city. At the
same time, they were achieving symbolical goals that open the path for future legislation.
For the SAA, the path was already open, and their members sought to find a solution for
the problem of artists housing. However, this association proved to be more successful in
achieving compelling changes in the laws and zoning regulations. The goal of this association
was to guarantee the legal status of buildings for joint living-work spaces. These purposes do not
contradict the ATA; nonetheless, the SAA members less than renters were owners of the spaces
they represented. Thus, making them more interested in the negotiation with the city authorities,
64
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 14: New York City Planning Commission, Reports
and Blueprint Copies, 1968-1971, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
65
SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and
Calendars, 1967-1971, p. 31,32, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
66
The Soho Alliance, http://www.sohoalliance.org.
Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017).
Page | 17
proving more successful in generating connections with influential characters and institutions
that helped them to propel the expedition of urban policies in their benefit.
However, even with the new legal framework, some inconsistencies remained after the
SAA stopped activity in 1973. A matured legislation did not come to fruition until the definitive
changes in Zoning Regulations and housing provisions were made in 1977 and 1981. More
importantly, the case of Soho is ironic. It is with these legal achievements that the decline of the
artistic community of Soho begins, and their results might be the case of a "pyrrhic victory,” a
gentrification wave being the ultimate cost. The already well-established popularity of this
vibrant community started attracting even more residents. Moreover, the now lawful residential
status unleashed a wave of wealthier tenants, pushing out the less economically successful ones.
Nevertheless, the case of these associations reflects a successful example of political
participation in shaping the urban policies in favor of an organized community. Whatever the last
consequences were, the coordination and political participation of these groups allowed the
changes in the legal framework for artists to establish a community in Soho. The artists proved to
be active in promoting their relevance for the city, culturally and economically. During this
process, they made robust allies in the government and art institutions, who were a key factor to
push the city administration for new developments in urban policy. Thus, the case of Soho artists
illuminates understandings of the relationship between politics, people, and art. These artists
took the evolution of their destinies in their hands, proving that social organization and political
involvement can positively shape environments and objectives alike.
Bibliography
2017. Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. April.
2017. SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. May.
2017. New York State Multiple Dwelling Law. New York, May.
Archives of the New York City Municipal Library. Soho Clippings Folder.
Fosler-Lussier, Danielle. 2015. Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy. Oakland: University of California Press.
Hudson, James R. 1987). The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan. Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press.
Kostelanetz, Richard. 2003. SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists' Colony. New York: Routledge.
Plunz, Richard. 2016. A History of Housing in New York City. New York: Columbia University Press.
Simpson, Charles R. 1981. SoHo: The Artists in the City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The New York Times. 1970. "Artists Vote for Union and a Big Demonstration." September 23.
Zukin, Sharon. 1989. Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

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Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961 to 1971

  • 1. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 1 Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971. Fernando Ruiz is an urban historian dedicated to the study of the relations between policy and urban environments. He graduated from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico in 2014, from the master’s program in History at The City College of New York in 2017 and is currently studying a MS in Urban Policy and Leadership at Hunter College in New York City. In 2015, his book La Cruz de Plazas. Transformacion Urbana: Guadalajara 1947-1959, was published as a result of the award granted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the most recognized university in Latin America. In the 1960s an increasing demand for housing boosted the rent prices in different neighborhoods of New York City, pushing low-income residents to more affordable areas of the city. Among these displaced residents were artists, a group characterized by the low revenues of their work. Gentrification and the boost on rents in the West Village, a place formerly preferred by artists, pushed an exodus of artists, leading them to the vacant industrial buildings located in the area South of Houston Street (Soho) in lower Manhattan. The high number of vacancies of loft buildings represented a problem for landlords who could no longer maintain them leased because of a decline in the manufacture industry in the area. Landlords pursuing income, and artists requiring space, found in this engagement a suitable deal for both. Thus, the inexpensive Soho buildings gave the artists’ community the opportunity to preserve their life-style of mixing living and working space. However, the industrial zoning regulations in this area prohibited the residential use of these buildings, leading to two decades of negotiation with the city authorities for the legalization of artists to live in lofts. During this period, the artists formed several associations, two of them crucial in the fight to transform the zoning regulations to allow artists to live and work in lofts: The Artist Tenants Association (ATA) and the Soho Artist Association (SAA). Throughout a decade, these two associations transformed the destinies of both the artists and Soho. As they pushed for regulations to secure the future of artists, they also monitored the steps of city and state authorities, scrutinizing legislation that would directly affect their interests. The cohesion and political involvement of the Soho artists through these associations contributed directly to the creation of urban policies that allowed the industrial areas to become residential but also secured the Soho area for the artists through special cultural programs. Thus in 1961, the Artist Tenants Association, established by the artists and for the artists, began the fight against the city in response to increasing numbers of artists evicted from lofts, raising awareness about their legal struggles and creating awareness in society and government. Their achievements would have a significant impact in advancing the first efforts to shape the
  • 2. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 2 city’s housing laws and zoning regulations to the benefit of the artists. However, this association did not survive to see fulfilling triumphs. Nonetheless, by 1969 a new organization, the Soho Artist Association, was founded, which continued the negotiations with the city authorities for the creation of protective legislation. Its major achievements were the Zoning Resolutions of 1971 that allowed the transformation of Soho buildings for “joint living-work space.” However, even with these new legal definitions, some inconsistencies remained. More refined legislation did not come to fruition until the final changes in zoning regulations and housing provisions were made in 1981. Ironically, it is with these legal achievements that the decline of the artistic community of Soho begins. The attraction generated by the vibrant community and the legitimated residential status unleashed a gentrification wave of wealthier tenants, prompting once more an exodus of the less successful artists to outer areas. However, the coordination and political participation of these groups allowed changes in urban policies, giving the legal framework for artists to establish a community in Soho. Strong allies in the government and art institutions, but also the growing popularity of renown artists in such associations, forced the authorities to focus their efforts in solving the artists’ demands. Thus, the case of Soho artists illuminates the understandings of the relation of politics and art, proving that social organization and political involvement can positively shape our environment and objectives when taking the evolution of our destinies in our hands. The Artist Tenants Association The Artist Tenants Association was formed in 1961, to petition the office of Robert Wagner, then mayor of New York (whose brother was an artist),1 for permission to live in manufacturing districts that were not officially zoned for habitational use, but more importantly to avoid evictions of artists residing in lofts. Influential artists and members of the ATA including Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Ad Reinhardt, and Richard Stankiewicz, participated in the 1961 protests, taking advantage of their popularity to capture society and government attention. One of the first agreements was the Artist in Residence (AIR) program, laid out vaguely to allow artists who were recognized by cultural institutions to live in lofts. Other than negotiating with the city, the ATA served as a centralized resource by disseminating information to artists and the media, proposing boycotts and raising funds to support the artists’ cause. This association was central in negotiating a more refined AIR program, amendments to the Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), and changes in the zoning regulations leading to a more formal movement to legalize artists' occupation of loft buildings in SoHo, but also citywide.2 The first record of the beginning of the ATA is marked by a telegram of Dan Koner, chairman of the ATA, from May 6, 1961, directed to the Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey that reads:3 1 Richard Kostelanetz, SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony (New York: Routledge, 2003), 11. 2 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 124. 3 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 3. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 3 Artist T.A. recently formed in effect to prevent eviction of N.Y. artists from their S. lofts. Holding Rally Tues. May 9. Wash. I. H.S. 48 Ir. Pl. If artists unable retain work space in N.Y. may have to relocate elsewhere. Would you offer relocate artists your city. Permit us to release your message to press. Please wire. The telegram states the purposes of the ATA in preventing evictions of artists but also established the relevance of the artists in the city. For the association, if their claims were not considered, the artists' community would look for alternatives for relocation to Hoboken, New Jersey and by doing this, damaging New York City’s image as a cultural production center. Thus, this telegram defines the purposes and strategies the ATA followed to address the artists’ issues in the fight to legalize conversion of lofts to residential use. The ATA recognized the need to shape the urban policies to allow the new adoptions, ensuring at the time the cultural destiny of the city. The ATA’s telegram also had its foundations in the attitudes taken by the Fire Department and its commissioner Edward F. Cavanagh, who, after a series fires in the Soho area buildings, pushed for the removal of its unlawful occupants. On February 27, 1961, he released a statement to the press called: “No Beatnik Pads in the Loft Bldgs. Ruled a Hazzard By Fire Dept.”4 Among other things, the statement notes that this was not an “anti-cultural” movement but an effort to protect the lives of those who live in the so-called “Hell’s Hundred Acres,” an area containing several neighborhoods where twenty persons including seven firemen were killed in blazes since 1959, at a time when artists began a quiet invasion of Soho lofts.5 Ironically, few if any of these units were in Soho.6 The commissioner recognized that this area became popular for living purposes after these people had been pushed out of the West Village, a neighborhood that had already suffered from gentrification. Also, it is stated that fifty teams of inspectors found 228 makeshift apartments in this area, many of them illegally occupied. For the inspector, the illegal occupation of buildings represented not only a fire hazard but a threat to public health. By this year, from the approximately 3,000 buildings in this area, 20 had already been vacated and the commissioners aimed to ask the Department of Buildings for help in their efforts to prevent fire and health hazards. For him the primary threat was the poor fire protection of these buildings, but also because of the low profile and isolation maintained by the illegal residents, which made it difficult to identify which buildings were occupied in the case of an emergency. The considerations of the Fire Department thus had their basis in the actual dangers that the industrial buildings represented for residential use. The irregularity of these buildings allowed unusual conditions, overcrowding, lack of light and ventilation, and excessive densities in an area not designed to host permanent residents to complicate the Fire Department job. Thus, fearing unanticipated evictions, artists demanded permission from the authorities to inhabit lofts. The ATA was drawing the attention of the press, and this was crucial in catching the sensitivities of the public on the relevance of the artists to the city. A Herald Tribune article of the date announced in the telegram, May 9, 1961, called “Seek Public’s Aid Against Fire Dept. 4 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 5 James R. Hudson, The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987), 79. 6 Richard Kostelanetz, SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony (New York: Routledge, 2003), 11.
  • 4. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 4 Artists of the City Unite to Save Their Garrets”7 describes one of the first public demonstrations of the ATA, that occurred that night: “The artists of New York fighting to save their garrets, will appeal for public backing at a mass meeting tonight to prevent the city from becoming a cultural wasteland. […] Without public support, the loft cause may become a lost cause.” Artists were more aware both of their fragile situation to fight the city authorities without the support of the social sector, but also in recognizing the importance of the cultural production of the city, using this as a flag to represent their cause. Artist-tenants quickly began to express fear of the “mass evictions,” noting that hundreds had already been evicted and that approximately another 20,000 artists remained in similar conditions. In finding solutions to this issue, the ATA shows interest in alternatives like Hoboken, New Jersey, or San Francisco, California, to relocate the community, asking its respective mayors for asylum if the “cruel persecution forces them to become refugees.”8 However, the artists were far from being ignored; prominent characters expressed their sympathy for the artists’ struggle. From a national perspective Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States, called on culture-conscious New Yorkers to support the artists’ cause, stating: “I find it hard to believe that the Administration and people of this great city, once they are informed of this situation, would stand idly by and allow our artists to be dispersed.” Also, James J. Rorimer, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, urged the city to “favor the artists, wherever possible. For it is the work of the artist that contributes to the soul of the nation.” With this, the ATA proves its efficacy in making their claims public. Calling the attention of influential actors, they achieved awareness of their situation from both society and city authorities, stating at the time their single purpose of having an affordable place to live and work after having been pushed out by wealthy tenants from the West Village. Their biggest fear was being evicted once again from their lofts in Soho. The results of the rally on May 9, 1961, were immediately visible the next day. An article from the New York Post from May 10, 1961, titled “Eases Stand on Artist Lofts,” speaks about considerations made by Commissioner Cavanagh from the Fire Department and negotiations in a meeting with De Kooning. A New York Herald Tribune article from the same date named “Cavanagh Lends Ear To Laments of Artists,” also talks about a sympathetic attitude to the artists, referring to talks maintained with Dan Korner, president of the ATA, and Mayor Wagner in relation to the mayor’s interest in the artists concerns expressed to the media. One of the reasons Mayor Wagner supported the artists was because he was running for re-election for the mayor’s office the fall of 1961; thus, he found in the artists an ally for his campaign.9 Even the New York Times wrote an article about the city’s willingness to cooperate with the artists. Another report from the Village Voice on May 18, 1961, recalls the successful results of a meeting between Cavanagh and the celebrated artists Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and others. Thus, the efforts of the ATA worked to raise their allegations to the public eye, and with 7 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.8, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 8 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.8, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 9 Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 50.
  • 5. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 5 this, they forced the authorities to consider solutions for the community.10 Also, some of the members of the ATA had connections with the political powers of the city, including the Department of Cultural Affairs.11 Nonetheless, talks with the Commissioner of the Fire Department and public awareness of the artists’ plight proved not to be enough to mobilize the authorities to reshape the provisions to comply with the fire and sanitary codes of the MDL. The anxieties of the ATA demonstrated to be stronger than the patience public administrators required to bring a change in policy, and by June 14, 1961, the association issued a statement in response to the increased publicity and threat of evictions: The announcement in the New York press on February 27 of wholesale evictions from studio-lofts was, in effect, a declaration that the haphazard harassment to which artists in New York City have long been subjected had hardened into a deliberated policy. Since then, artists have been evicted from lofts in ever-increasing numbers, sometimes on eight hours’ notice, often on the most questionable pretext. The Artist Tenants Association has employed all available means—proposals, discussions, meetings with city officials, rallies, telegrams, radio and TV shows, newspaper and magazine articles—in an effort to defend the right of artists to use lofts, but without any effect on the city administration.12 This press release shows the frustrations experienced by the artists, yet they relate their issues to the “deliberated policy” that evictions signified for them, thus neglecting the unsafe conditions the buildings represented. Nonetheless, they used every available channel of communication to make their plights public and reach them to the city administrators. The release reads as follows: Whether or not the city fathers realize it, artistic activity in this community will be wiped out. Rather than submit to this process, let us withdraw as artists from the life of the community and demonstrate to the city the effect of its administrators’ policies. Let us see if that will matter to anyone. When the city wants baseball, bingo, business or breweries, it passes laws to make these enterprises possible. If it wants us in New York, it can pass laws to make our existence here possible. It has become clear that we cannot hope to combat official harassment with legal or political maneuvers. At the same time, our plight has gone beyond questions of legalities and political expediency. It has become a moral issue; and it is there that, as artists, we can act.13 10 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.9, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 11 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 124. 12 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 13 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 6. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 6 The ATA reveals a clear sense of dismissal from the authorities, demanding immediate attention from the government, in what for them has become a “moral issue” in relation to the perception that art was placed in a secondary stand. Furthermore, since this early stage, the ATA acknowledged the value of artistic production in the city and considered this a matter that should be primary in the government's agenda. The ATA recognized that passive negotiations would not lead them to achieve their ambitions to legalize loft-living, and politics and legalities represented a mishap about which they were willing to act. Thus, plans for a boycott on September 11, 1961, were prepared: To implement our actions, it is proposed: 1. That artist not cooperate as artists in any public activity in New York, either by exhibiting, appearing on TV or radio, or lecturing in public; 2. That artists not send their work to any gallery or museum in New York, nor show their work to the public in their studios; 3. That artists not attend any exhibition in any gallery or museum in New York; 4. That artists not cooperate with the showing of their work in any gallery or museum in New York and, if possible, withdraw works on loan or held on consignment; 5. That artists urge the artists of other cities, both in the United States and abroad, not to send their work to any gallery or museum in New York; 6. That this action take effect on September 11, 1961, until such a time as the New York City administration makes it clear to our representatives that artists may work in New York without official harassment.14 These statements prove that the consciousness of the ATA was crucial in shaping the strategies to push the authorities in the development of policies to benefit their interest, to allow the residential status for lofts, but also to ensure the cultural production of New York City. The release shows a selection of names among the hundreds of members of the ATA who were intended to participate in the boycott of September 11, 1961, and signed by the association’s chairman, James Gahagan. This document acknowledges that when the authorities are overlooking the needs of a community, and the suitability of the administration is not favoring the legal process, a manifestation of power might be heard by showing the relevance of their functions and depriving society of its contributions. The ATA statements for a planned boycott had an overwhelming resonance in the New York press. A significant number of articles described the aggressive actions of the association. The New York Post reads on June 26, 1961 “STRIKE,” regarding the artist boycott planned for September 11, in The Kingston Daily Freeman an article of July 3, 1961, called “Artists Driven Out of Garrets, Consider Strike” describes that the ATA has sent letters to 1,000 artists, proposing an art stoppage for September 11, in relation to the concerns generated by the actions of the Fire Department. And by July 3, the New York Times writes, “Artist Might Strike to Save Lofts,” making mention of Willem de Kooning, Ad Reinhardt, and Richard Stankiewicz, as 14 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 7. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 7 celebrated artists.15 The ATA’s statement seems to have been reproduced in every New York City newspaper, showing the power the association had to get the public’s attention. Furthermore, by threatening the withdrawal of artistic production from the city, they successfully demonstrated that this was a matter for public awareness. The “city fathers” realized that creative activity in New York City could not be wiped out, and they listened. More importantly, during the agitation of the planned boycott, the ATA made a strong political ally, Congressman John V. Lindsay, who became New York City Mayor in 1966, and during his administration sided with the artists.16 The boycott planned for September 11 never happened. The threat that artists would shut down art galleries, stopping art consumption and therefore causing economic repercussions, influenced the city authorities to agree on a prompt solution for the artists. On August 15, 1961, an agreement by New York City officials and the ATA was reached, known as the “Artist in Residence” (AIR) program. This agreement specifies the set of conditions required for a building to qualify for registration, such as adequate means of egress in case of fire, a notice of occupancy by the artist with the Department of Buildings, and a sign that reads “AIR” to notify any fireman responding an emergency call that artists reside there. To meet such requirements, the city agencies permitted artists to have their working and living quarters in loft studios.17 From 1961 to 1963 artists began to register for the AIR program. With this, it was expected that the massive evictions would come to an end and the artists would enjoy certain liberty to populate lofts. Yet, less than 10% of the art community living in lofts applied for AIR.18 Even if many artists showed reluctance to participate in this program, it made public officials question their willingness to be responsible citizens.19 This was also related to the difficulties of the buildings to comply not with the fire and sanitary conditions, but with the zoning codes. Also, the vague legal language and the lack of specification in this early agreement brought back the artists’ evictions from lofts. By December 1963, “the city began to refuse AIR registrations on the basis of zoning. City officials stated that an administrative mistake caused them to overlook the fact that artists were illegally receiving legal registration to live in lofts in M1 and C8 zones (heavy and light manufacture areas), which they had recused as out-of-the-bounds for living.”20 The AIR program was a “fiasco,” said Ruth Richards, an ATA official.21 However, a report by city authorities in 1963 estimated that a total of three thousand families were living in lofts, almost all of which were illegal.22 With this, the basis for a legal battle was set, an arduous path 15 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.13-20, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 16 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p.14, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 17 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 18 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 19 James R. Hudson, The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987), 80. 20 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 21 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 125. 22 Richard Plunz, A History of Housing in New York City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 315.
  • 8. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 8 to achieve compelling and clear legislation fitted to the artists’ needs. By March 1963 the ATA proved once again their commitment to confronting the administrative problems and gaps left in the policy-making process. On March 13, 1963, the ATA proposed an Amendment to the MDL of the State of New York, transferring their claims to the state level after negotiations with the city failed. The MDL specifies the codes of occupation for multiple dwelling sites and prevents them from overcrowding, inadequate provisions for light and air, inadequate provisions for escape from fire, and improper sanitation, which are hazardous to the health, safety, morals, and welfare of citizens of the state.23 Then, a proposed amendment written by Senator MacNeil Mitchell to the MDL was introduced to both houses of the New York State Legislature to secure the loft studios for the artists of this state, and particularly the artists of New York City.24 This proposed amendment sought to put an end to the inability of the city to legislate changes in the state law. With this amendment, artists would be able to occupy buildings that the regulations of the New York City Building Department did not allow, because their strictness made just a few buildings capable of complying with the rules. The logic used by Senator Mitchell in the writing of this proposition explains that if the aims of the MDL are to ensure minimum health and safety requirements for residents, a building under commercial standards that promotes similar regulations for employees can thus work for residential purposes. He concludes that: "It is of course infinitely safer for eight people to occupy a building than forty people plus machinery to occupy the same building.”25 The ATA in cooperation with Senator Mitchell improved its strategies by providing the government a legal guide for assessing the artists' requirements, expecting that, by amending the complexities of the statutory language, the problem could be solved. The ATA closed this proposal by stating, “If this Amendment to the Multiple Dwelling Law is not successful and the lofts come down, this voice, this artists force, in all actuality, will be stilled.”26 Thus, the ATA proved an association capable of developing strategies to battle the different fronts in the struggle for lofts legalization. However, the fears of the ATA became real; the approach to amend the MDL did not work as expected, and the proposal failed. The members of the ATA did not surrender, and the efforts to resolve the legislation in their favor continued by retaking the strategy of public demonstration. On April 3, 1964, an approximated 1,00027 members of the arts community marched to City Hall.28 Delegates from 23 New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/pdf/MultipleDwellingLaw.pdf consulted on May 2017. 24 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 25 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 26 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 27 The real numbers of the participants in the march differ, the New York World-Telegram and Sun mentioned 500 that day, the New York Times said 1000, the Herald Tribune 600, the Village Voice also mentioned 1000. Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p. 57,58,59,60, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 28 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 9. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 9 the ATA met with representatives of the City Planning Commission to discuss new zoning resolutions, but also with the Office of Cultural Affairs. However, the negotiations in various meetings during these days did not resolve the problems of the zoning regulations not allowing residential use. During such demonstrations, the ATA gained more political allies and counted on the support of art galleries and major museums. “On April 3, 1964, the ATA coalition demonstrated its strength. Close to ninety commercial galleries closed for the day in sympathy. Representatives of the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum joined with the artists in meetings with officials from the Planning commission and the mayor’s office.”29 The institutional support of the major art institutions of the city allowed the artists to dramatize the economic relevance of the art. Marches and meetings were not offering the needed zoning changes, which was the necessary solution for artists to live in lofts, and the ATA once more planned a boycott. A document from July 6, 1964, titled “Negotiations with the city, begun after our April 3 demonstration, have collapsed!,”30 explains that the “Mitchell” amendment to the MDL did not gain the anticipated effect because the city would not allow the registering of lofts in high and light industrial zones. Ironically, these areas were abundant in numbers of loft buildings. This, once more unchained considerations for a boycott on museums and art galleries, relying this time on the support of the Museum of Modern Art, but again, the boycott did not happen. The ATA, instead, urged artists to donate funds to keep the fight and the association alive, raising awareness that the city authorities could decide to raze the buildings at any time, restating the relevance of keeping their living-work spaces and the need to keep pushing the government for a legislation to satisfy their claims. And yet, the popularity generated by the ATA struggles in the media, originated an increase in the number of artists moving to the area. But also, around this time, “art culture was further legitimized by new philanthropic housing for artists,”31 offering alternatives for the less affluent artists. The ATA memorandums fail in documenting a significant event occurring around this period, perhaps because of the rapid succession of events, or because the files are lost. However, the newspapers did follow the signing of the first bill in consideration of the artists. Just before an established deadline on April 24, 1964, the unanticipated signing of the “Loft Bill,” or the Article 7B of the MDL by governor Nelson Rockefeller, happened. The governor “signed a bill liberating the law permitting artists and families to occupy loft buildings,”32 and in an article by the Village Voice of April 30, 1965 named “Rockefeller Signs Loft Bill, Artist Await City Action,” specific mentions to the ATA are made and members such as Wilhelm De Kooning, Ibram Lassaw, Marisol and Jack Tworkov, and Robert Henry, a member of the ATA’s board. They were on the front lines to expose the artists needs to the governor, backed by local politicians and art museums from New York City. It is also stated that: 29 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 125. 30 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 10, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 31 Richard Plunz, A History of Housing in New York City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 315. 32 In a New York Times article from April 26, 1964. Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p. 63, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 10. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 10 The experimental bill, which expires in 1968, goes into effect immediately. It applies to “persons regularly engaged in the visual fine arts, such as painting and sculpture, on a professional fine arts basis.” The artist must be certified by an art academy, association, or society recognized by the City Office of Cultural Affairs or the State Council on the Arts. There will be “no difficulty” in setting up the certification machinery, according to spokesman from the City Administrator’s Office. The measure was sponsored by Senator MacNeil Mitchell”33 With the addition of Article 7-B to the MDL, under the guidelines of the AIR program, which specified the qualifications for an artist to register, the ATA established a significant victory for the artists, ensuring compelling legislation that made it legal for artists to inhabit lofts. However, this bill was “experimental,” and this can be related to the undefined prospects for the sustainability of the new zoning uses and the real state competitivity for other purposes beyond loft legalization. On the positive side, article 7-B recognized artists and their relevance to the city, and thus their need for special housing provisions. But a negative part of this article was that it made it difficult for landlords to comply with the requirements of the fire codes.34 Even if this victory was decisive, the relevance of the ATA gains a significant advantage, by being and strategic member in the efforts to build and transform legislation to favor the purposes of artists. However, after this significant victory, the activities of the ATA declined, and the records show only small monitoring of events and information dissemination, disconnecting the ATA from the developments that happened in future urban policies. With the complexities of the fire codes and the unwillingness of landlords to comply with them, illegal living resumed as it was before 1964. Artists simply put up AIR signs to warn the firemen but did not notify the Buildings Department to prevent a visit by the city inspector.35 The ATA documents show that the association continued to hold meetings at least until March 12, 1967,36 but what happened in the last meetings remains unknown. The last document emitted by the ATA in May 1967 is about the new considerations taken in the AIR program, and the instructions to be followed for those applying for it.37 The future negotiations with the city authorities to improve the previous legal achievements of the ATA were followed by the Soho Artist Association (SAA), who started to emit records in 1969. The SAA led the path for the zoning resolutions of 1971 and future MDL amendments. The connection between these two associations is unclear, however, in the collection of SAA files, some documents with the ATA letterhead regarding meetings in 1961, are found.38 A recording from the first meeting of the SAA on June 5, 1970, refers to the ATA as an advisor in the strategies the SAA should follow to achieve their political aims, and some members seemed 33 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 2, Folder 21: Scrapbook, 1959-1967, p. 63, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 34 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 126. 35 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 126. 36 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 14: Meeting Announcements, 1966-1967, p.6, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 37 Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Press Releases and Memorandums 1961-1968, p. 17, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 38 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 18: Printed Matter, 1961-1971, p 1-3, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 11. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 11 confused by identifying the SAA as the ATA.39 The remission of the ATA activities could be connected to the different zoning proposals and the creation of various groups for particular purposes in each neighborhood; for Sharon Zukin the interests of the ATA were to remain “illegal” because some artists thought that would maintain the low rent. Furthermore, the SAA members lived mostly in co-op lofts where they were owners rather than renters, and they wanted a raise in their property value.40 This set an interesting dichotomy in the interests of both associations: even if both wanted to build an artistic community in New York City, the economic interests involved led the associations to follow different strategies, favoring the formation of different groups to pursue specific interests. The ATA worked citywide and the SAA was mainly focused on Soho artists. The Soho Artists Association The Soho Artists Association was formed in 1969 with the purpose to assist artists residing in New York City, to support the city as the visual arts capital of the world, and to ensure working and living conditions in the loft buildings of Soho.41 Moreover, the primary purpose of this association was to protect the artists’ homes from being torn down by developers.42 The SAA, as well as the ATA, shared similar purposes in benefit of the artists, yet, the documentation does not show if they also share membership. Outstanding members of the SAA were Gerhardt Liebmann, Ely Raman, and Vincent Cahill. The SAA kept track of the creation of legislation for artists living in Soho, and nothing more than this area South Houston bounded by Houston, Canal, Broadway, and West Broadway. This characteristic is related to its interest in this area, and their economic investment in housing. Other associations also existed in different neighborhoods to represent their interests. Even if the SAA enclosed an area of influence, its leadership would have an impact in New York City and beyond. By April 22, 1969, the first informal meeting was held to discuss problems experienced by some members in matters of illegal tenancy. Also considered was the position the SAA should take before the city authorities as a negotiator for urban policies to favor the artists, and to work with the allies they have in the City Planning Commission (CPC). Ely Raman stated a smart point that would define the success of the association: “artists must learn to lobby as does the Rifle Association—hit when and where it does the most good.”43 This meeting was summoned because of the actions taken by the CPC; a Village Voice article from April 12, 1969, named “City Won’t Make Loft Living Legal,”44 shows the position of the CPC rejecting the 39 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 6: SoHo Artists Association Meeting, 1970 June 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 40 Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 121. 41 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972, p. 1, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 42 Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 116. 43 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972, p. 4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 44 Soho clippings folder, file, N353, Archives of the New York City Municipal Library.
  • 12. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 12 creation of a “special artists' district" in Soho. However, the article shows the disposition of the commission in broadly studying the case. Since 1968, the CPC was researching how to develop a strategy that would work for the artists, and very detailed documentation from this year shows its commitment to resolve this issue by modifying the zoning codes, the only way to make lofts usable for residential purpose. From September 16 to 20, 1968, a survey of vacancy and artists occupancy was made in Soho. This was to understand the evolution of the area over time, and thus determine if a zoning change was needed.45 Figure 1, Meeting of the SoHo Artists Association “Planning Committee.” SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978 Box:1 Folder 20: Photographs, 1970-1971, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. From 1968 to 1970, the intervention of the city authorities in Soho augmented, and the SAA worked as the coordinating committee to manage “SoHo’s foreign relations” to deal with the municipal authorities and to represent artists.46 Soho-specific interests “required that its leadership cultivate sympathetic, knowledgeable, and essentially personal relationships with city planners, lawyers, and architects.”47 Thus, the SAA mastered the strategies of the organization to achieve their purposes in an integrated plan to attack different fronts. One of these characteristics 45 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 14: New York City Planning Commission, Reports and Blueprint Copies, 1968-1971, p. 21, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 46 James R. Hudson, The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987), 85. 47 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 165.
  • 13. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 13 of the SAA48 described by Sharon Zukin in her interviews to artists made in the summer of 1980 is that they counted on the support of wealthy people, a member of the SAA explained: We had gallery owners. Many of us worked in schools and universities. There were wealthy collectors we had sold to. There were very influential artists in the area – Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Indiana, Julie Judd [wife of Minimalist artist Donald Judd] – who could call on curator and museum board members. Others of us had only an occasional wealthy person who had bought something from us. We all put together the names on who we could talk to and found that between us we had a rather impressive list. It ranged from people who had nothing to do with art, like the chairmen of the boards of banks, to curators and international art dealers. We started to call these people up to let them know, ‘Hey, there's a unique phenomenon going on right here that nobody knows about, and if we don't do something, it'll be destroyed.49 The words of this artist reflect the character of an association that understood the integrity, legitimacy, and power of the artists, reflecting the modus operandi of the association that carefully followed the unfolding of policy-making in close relations with city administrators. The CPC and the Department of Cultural Affairs maintained contact with the SAA to keep them informed of the advances made by the city. In these meetings, they discussed the latest city proposals and offered a synopsis of Soho history and its relation to the city, keeping records of their advances in historical detail.50 On June 5, 1970, a meeting with representatives of these institutions and the SAA revealed the progress made on the matter of urban policy that will affect the artists. This meeting was held to inform the SAA members about the CPC "Loft City" plan to make lofts buildings legal for residential purpose. Ely Raman and Gerhart Liebmann directed the meeting where Mike Levine from the CPC presented a package that incorporated many of the loft buildings in Soho and surrounding neighborhoods. However, the plans did not cover all the buildings, and some artists would not be beneficiated. This generated controversy among some members such as Vincent Cahill, who sought a more comprehensive plan to favor all the artists residing in Soho. Over the discussion, Doris C. Freedman from the Department of Cultural Affairs exposes a point, suggesting that they should take the plan as it is, because this would offer legal status for most of the artists—a significant advance considering that none of them have this status at the moment. Another interesting point considers that the artists have to remember that they are not the only ones competing for this land and that if they do not take this opportunity, they can compromise all the efforts made.51 That same day, the SAA members held voting to decide if they would accept the CPC’s plans. And from the 125 voters, 112 voted yes to 48 Zukin and Simpson make references to the Soho Artists Association as the SoHo Artists’ Tenants’ Association, but the evidence proves they are referring to the same SAA, and this might represent an error in the vocabulary used in their investigations. 49 'Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 116. 50 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 165. 51 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 6: SoHo Artists Association Meeting, 1970 June 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 14. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 14 approve the CPC "Loft City" plans.52 This plan would cover an area of 44 acres in the space between Broadway, Centre, Worth and Grand Street, but cutting off from the project the south corner of Soho. After this meeting on September 23, 1970, the CPC held a public hearing on the proposal to legalize artists’ loft occupancy in Soho, understanding the value of the artistic community, and stating the need of adopting new zoning regulations. However, the document also explains the complexities of the zoning distributions of the city, and therefore the complicated task of the elaboration of new Zoning Resolutions.53 The SAA was ready to make its voice heard in the hearing, and among the direct demands for this, they elaborated on a careful plan of how to shape the CPC perceptions in favor of the artists’ demands. In an announcement, the SAA urged its members to send letters to the CPC and some specific members to expose their interest in the changes to the urban policies. Asking for the support of the cultural community with their participation and/or presence in the hearing, they also informed the artists of the following administrative steps after the adoption of new legislation by the CPC.54 These strategies show a more prepared association which attacks the city authorities from different flanks, cooperates in the production of compelling plans to shape the zoning regulations, and participates in public hearings, but also invades the public authorities and departments with letters expressing their demands. During this hearing, Gerhart Liebmann asked the city authorities to place a moratorium on artists’ evictions until the legalization of artists’ housing was properly surveyed.55 Also in a Village Voice article of October 1, 1970,56 the participation of the SAA members in the public hearing is described. It is said that over 40 artists testified, including landlords and other members of the community, joined with a statement of Mayor John V. Lindsay to urge the CPC to rezone the Soho district. It also mentions a movement Mayor Lindsay made in 1969, declaring a moratorium on artists' evictions. These actions illuminate the close relation the SAA and the mayor had, but also his interest in the artists’ cause. The mayor stated, “The creation of a Soho artists’ district will ensure New York’s position as the art capital of the nation and one of the great creative centers of the world.” The sympathy of Mayor Lindsay was crucial for the advances in urban policies achieved for the artists. The close relation of Mayor Lindsay and the SAA also had an international connotation. The SAA gained global coverage and papers in France and Germany talked about the artists in New York.57 At the same time, the State Department was investing in propaganda strategies called the “Cultural Presentations.” an international and cultural diplomatic effort to promote 52 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 7: Proposal Ballot, 1970 June 5, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 53 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972, p. 8, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 54 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, folder 4: Reports, Statements, Announcements, 1969-1972, p. 9, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 55 The New York Times, Sep. 23, 1970. “Artists Vote for Union and a Big demonstration.” 56 Soho clippings folder, file, N353, Archives of the New York City Municipal Library. 57 Sharon Zukin, Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1989), 117.
  • 15. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 15 American art.58 Thus, the State Department influenced local politics elevating the need to preserve artists to claim New York City as a cultural capital. For the ATA, 1961 resulted in a busy year for political participation and achievements; for the SAA, 1971 was the year. On December 9, 1970 and then on January 6, 1971, the CPC held a public hearing on the proposed change. During this hearing, new Zoning Resolutions were discussed to change the zoning codes for the Soho area. These changes adopted on January 20, 1971 included the reassigning to M1-5A and M1-5B districts specially designed to permit joint living-work quarter for artists.59 The Zoning Resolutions signed during the administration of Mayor John V. Lindsay, a close ally of the artists since the times of the ATA, brought a solution for the problems left by the amendments made in 1961 during Mayor Robert F. Wagner period. With this, the Zoning Resolutions are shaped to agree with the SAA demands, legalizing the transformation of these areas for residential purposes, where the artists could also find a working space. With this, the SAA had its first significant victory, simplifying the path for artists to live and work in lofts. The political strategies and involvement of artists worked for the SAA, yet, there was another loophole left by the 1964 MDL that sketched the legal framework, which allowed artists to live in lofts. On May 5, 1971,60 an act to repeal section 279 of the MDL was introduced by the Senate of the State of New York and by July 2, 1971,61 and was passed into law. This amendment amplified the definition of artists and, more importantly, deleted section 279, which specifies that the “experimental bill” of 1964 was to be terminated on December 31 of 1968, thus eliminating part of the problems found in the legal codes. After seeing their goals fulfilled with the zoning legislation for Soho in 1971, "nearly every member of the original SAA Coordinating Committee had resigned."62 In the records of their aftermaths, the only survivor was the SAA Newsletter, traceable until 1973.63 The different interventions of the ATA and SAA were reflected in the actions taken by the city authorities. The public demonstrations and the political involvement of both associations in the process of urban policy-making obtained, as a result, a neighborhood specially designed for the artists to have the freedom to develop their talents. The complexities of the issue of re- zoning the city presented several difficulties for the planners; the city sought for a solution to these problems and understood the relevance of the artists for the city. Eventually, they reached an agreement. The protection offered by the legal framework had an impact on the activities of the SAA. During 1971, the documentation showed an interest in informing the associates how to 58 See: Danielle Fosler-Lussier, Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015). 59 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and Calendars, 1967-1971, p.20, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 60 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and Calendars, 1967-1971, p. 6, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 61 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and Calendars, 1967-1971, p. 10, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 62 Charles R. Simpson, SoHo: The Artists in the City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 189. 63 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 11: Newsletters, SoHo Newsletter, 1970-1973, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • 16. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 16 transform and invest in their lofts to make them comply with the law.64 But by July 14, 1971, amendments were added to restrict expansions in lofts.65 Interestingly, in the same fashion as the ATA, the SAA stopped producing records. It seems that after significant achievements, activity in both associations decreases. A new successor for the SAA was created, now under the name of “SoHo Alliance.” This volunteer community organization was founded in 1981, to work as “neighborhood watchdogs.” Working with elected officials and city agencies to ensure the preservation of Soho.66 Future developments of this organization are not traced in this research. However, the final resolutions that put an end to the legal battle to make Soho buildings qualify for the artists’ joint-living work spaces did not fill the loopholes in the MDL. Future modifications were needed because article 7-B, designed to simplify the recycling of industrial buildings, did not specify the legal framework regarding the responsibilities or obligations of each of the parts (tenant-landlord). Thus on 1977 article 7-C was added to establish a better definition of the limits and reaches of both. At the end, these amendments to the MDL and the Zoning Resolutions had a significant impact, legalizing the use of lofts throughout Manhattan. Conclusion The Artist Tenants Association and the Soho Artists Association had its relevance in the capacity to shape the urban policies to favor their purposes. These associations were established by the artist and for the artist, to begin a one-decade journey of battles and negotiations with the city authorities. The cohesion of their members proved to have successful results to fulfill their demands. However, it is also correct that over time, the purposes of each association changed. For the ATA, it was more important to battle the evictions of artists from lofts. Part of its members did not show cohesion when improvements in the law to secure their legal status were needed. Even if the archives do not illuminate the answers over these attitudes, secondary sources show that the interest of the members of the ATA did not seek to become completely legal, fearing that this would represent an increment in their housing expenses. History proves that this fear was genuine. Thus, the relevance of the ATA lies in its capacity to raise the awareness of city authorities and society over the significance of the artists in the city. At the same time, they were achieving symbolical goals that open the path for future legislation. For the SAA, the path was already open, and their members sought to find a solution for the problem of artists housing. However, this association proved to be more successful in achieving compelling changes in the laws and zoning regulations. The goal of this association was to guarantee the legal status of buildings for joint living-work spaces. These purposes do not contradict the ATA; nonetheless, the SAA members less than renters were owners of the spaces they represented. Thus, making them more interested in the negotiation with the city authorities, 64 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 14: New York City Planning Commission, Reports and Blueprint Copies, 1968-1971, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 65 SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Box 1, Folder 13: New York City Planning Commission, Laws and Calendars, 1967-1971, p. 31,32, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 66 The Soho Alliance, http://www.sohoalliance.org.
  • 17. Fernando Ruiz, Zoning Resolutions: The Soho Artists and the Making of Urban Policy, 1961-1971 (New York, NY, 2017). Page | 17 proving more successful in generating connections with influential characters and institutions that helped them to propel the expedition of urban policies in their benefit. However, even with the new legal framework, some inconsistencies remained after the SAA stopped activity in 1973. A matured legislation did not come to fruition until the definitive changes in Zoning Regulations and housing provisions were made in 1977 and 1981. More importantly, the case of Soho is ironic. It is with these legal achievements that the decline of the artistic community of Soho begins, and their results might be the case of a "pyrrhic victory,” a gentrification wave being the ultimate cost. The already well-established popularity of this vibrant community started attracting even more residents. Moreover, the now lawful residential status unleashed a wave of wealthier tenants, pushing out the less economically successful ones. Nevertheless, the case of these associations reflects a successful example of political participation in shaping the urban policies in favor of an organized community. Whatever the last consequences were, the coordination and political participation of these groups allowed the changes in the legal framework for artists to establish a community in Soho. The artists proved to be active in promoting their relevance for the city, culturally and economically. During this process, they made robust allies in the government and art institutions, who were a key factor to push the city administration for new developments in urban policy. Thus, the case of Soho artists illuminates understandings of the relationship between politics, people, and art. These artists took the evolution of their destinies in their hands, proving that social organization and political involvement can positively shape environments and objectives alike. Bibliography 2017. Artist Tenants Association records, 1959-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. April. 2017. SoHo Artists Association records, 1968-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. May. 2017. New York State Multiple Dwelling Law. New York, May. Archives of the New York City Municipal Library. Soho Clippings Folder. Fosler-Lussier, Danielle. 2015. Music in America’s Cold War Diplomacy. Oakland: University of California Press. Hudson, James R. 1987). The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Kostelanetz, Richard. 2003. SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists' Colony. New York: Routledge. Plunz, Richard. 2016. A History of Housing in New York City. New York: Columbia University Press. Simpson, Charles R. 1981. SoHo: The Artists in the City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The New York Times. 1970. "Artists Vote for Union and a Big Demonstration." September 23. Zukin, Sharon. 1989. Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.