Owner vacates entire Manhattan artists’ building

On a narrow street in the financial district, a block north of the Federal Reserve, past a cobbler and second-hand gem dealer, an era has quietly come to an end in one of Manhattan’s earliest skyscrapers.

“Everyone in my building had lived there for over a decade,” artist Molly Crabapple told The Post of 14 Maiden Lane, the 128-year-old former Diamond Exchange she had called home for 12 years before being evicted along with everyone. the other buildings. residents last month.

Built for jewelers in 1894, the 10-story, nine-unit loft building quietly served as a private mecca for the arts for the past decade: a residential hub of creativity for residents and their vast network of friends and collaborators.

Blessed with huge lofts, the occupants built a community for themselves and the countless like-minded spirits they invited into their spacious, light-filled apartments. The tenants lacked the star power or notoriety to earn the building a near Chelsea hotel or factory-level reputation, but to those in the know, the address was a diamond in the rough on the southern tip of Manhattan filled with tourists and financiers.

“It was a really unique magical building. You wouldn’t think there would be so many artists in the Financial District, but I guess that’s the benefit of being in such an unappealing neighborhood,” said Crabapple, who had lived in her roughly 1,000-square-foot unit with her partner, illustrator Fred. Harper, since 2010. “We were really close as a building. I feel very lucky to have had that experience. It was beautiful.”

Molly Crabapple in her old apartment.

14 maiden lane eviction

Since the eviction, Crabapple has moved to Brooklyn.

14 maiden lane eviction

Crabapple’s apartment served as a kind of “unofficial newsroom” for protesters during Occupy Wall Street.

14 maiden lane eviction

Crapabble approximates that his loft was something like 1,000 square feet.

Life at 14 Maiden Lane was always a trade-off, former residents say: Having an entire ethereal corner of New York City to themselves for below-market rent came at the cost of dealing with a landlord who, according to them, he was negligent, refusing to fix most of them and periodically turning up in disguise to steal from them. After the building was sold in January, for $9.5 million, the new owners allegedly let everyone’s leases run out and served all remaining tenants with eviction papers, giving them only minimal legal warning.

The building’s owners, Diamond Lane LLC, did not respond to The Post’s request for comment. An attorney for the owners did not immediately provide comment on their behalf.

At a minimum, the former residents have their memories.

During the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, the building, which is a block from Zuccotti Park, became a kind of “unofficial newsroom” for protesters who “drank my whiskey, used my outlets, They showered after leaving. from jail,” Crabapple recalled. Later, there were parties where “we had all the war reporters and porn stars huddled on the fire escape, smoking cigarettes until dawn.”

“I will always miss him,” former resident Crystal Thompson told The Post. “I think I am the luckiest person to have been in that building. The rest was horrible, but the art was great.”

A film and television tailor who works occasionally for the Metropolitan Opera, Thompson and her husband, an “illuminator for corporate stuff,” have a side business doing pop-up events and would often host themed soirées in their third-floor unit.

They frequently featured multi-story projections out the window, across the vacant lot next door, and into the adjacent building. “There were all kinds of reflections in the apartment, and there was no one in the center at the time, and we used to laugh at anyone who never bothered to look up,” he said.

14 maiden lane eviction

14 Maiden Lane, the building with the “Valentine’s Cards” sign, in a 1940s tax photo.

14 maiden lane eviction

A rendering of 14 Maiden Lane from the 1894 Real Estate Register and Builder’s Guide.

Once, a water pipe broke in the elevator shaft the morning of a party, “so all these people, including a French designer at the Met, had to go up all these stairs and past this broken pipe” to get to their home. colored lit apartment. . “They were like, ‘What is this amazing world?’ ”

Before losing access to the roof, residents had countless photo shoots with the water tower. At one point, a German model started a thriving skincare line in her loft, and Crabapple’s brocade bathroom wallpaper became something of a meme, with a fan once creating an entire Tumblr account. dedicated to him. During the pandemic, residents sent cocktails up and down the elevator. Through his window, a photographer filmed the fall of the second tower on 9/11 and the subsequent cloud of ash that engulfed the neighborhood.

“I don’t think there has been anything like that. We had artwork coming from different apartments, this floor, that floor, it was about how it came together,” Thompson said of the special dynamic of his home. “We were a group of artists in midtown Manhattan, which is kind of a no man’s land, but we had a great space and it was super DIY. I don’t think if we lived in another type of building I could have become the artist that I was.”

A resident who was “too stressed” and sad to speak to The Post had been living in the building since shortly after 9/11.

“I think of all of us, it was the worst for him. He was his home for a long time and I think it was extraordinarily well priced,” said Kristin Rose, a former small business owner who lived in the building from 2015 to the end of 2020.

“It was hard to leave,” he added. “If we could have, we would have stayed there indefinitely.”

Indeed, the eviction was a crippling blow to the remaining residents.

“We just got through COVID together, we feel like everything is fine, we’ll make it through, and then it ended up being a 90-day thing,” Thompson said. “It really isn’t a long time when you’ve been somewhere this long.”

14 maiden lane eviction

A building address sign on its facade, many of the letters are missing.

14 maiden lane eviction

Kristin Rose’s empty former apartment, which she filled with chandeliers.

14 maiden lane eviction

Residents often used the roof as an event space.

14 maiden lane eviction

The lot next to the building has been empty for years.

“It’s the classic story of a developer who buys the building and kicks everyone out. ‘Okay, you paid rent on time for 20 years’ and then in three months you have to pack up and leave because a speculator thinks he can get more money out of the building,” Crabapple said. “This kind of thing shouldn’t be normal. It’s pure greed and it’s displacing people.”

Rose worries that the building, which is not marked, will soon be demolished. (To date, there is no demolition permit, according to records from the city’s Department of Buildings.)

“It was an extraordinary place, and it’s sad that it’s being lost to whatever it is,” he said. “It’s legitimately a huge loss for the city, because it’s such an interesting piece of early American architecture.”

“I think this is just the New York story. People are constantly trying desperately to get a little space here, but this is a city run by real estate,” Crabapple said. “Having a little space is the greatest luxury in New York.”

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