A Trailer Park Grew in Brooklyn (Briefly)

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May 11, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

An earlier view of part of the Bushwick Project for the Arts. Photo courtesy of The Palace Beast.

The saga of the trailer park on the Bushwick-Willamsburg border in Brooklyn, N.Y., has come to an unceremonious end, the New York Times reported.

A month after being evicted from a lot, the members of a 20-person art collective say they have abandoned plans to relocate the trailer park they maintained there for over a year.

Hayden Cummings, a founder of the collective, known as the Bushwick Project for the Arts, said that he had already sold about a third of the 25 trailers on Craigslist.

“The trailer park community as we knew it is definitely done with,” he said.

After finding it hard to store the unregistered vehicles in the city, Cummings began selling them for about $600 each, mainly to hobbyists throughout the Northeast. One buyer, he said, quickly put the trailer up for sale on eBay at a small mark-up.

“It’s interesting,” Cummings said, “but since we bought them a year and a half ago, there’s a much bigger market out there for vintage travel trailers.”

Cummings said he was distributing the proceeds from the sale of the trailers to members of the collective, most of whom have been staying with friends since their trailers were removed from the overgrown lot behind 304 Meserole St. on March 13.

The group owns the lease to a commercial warehouse at that address, though they have encountered problems there as well.

On April 20, the New York City Fire Department and the city’s Department of Buildings conducted a joint inspection of the 6,500-square-foot space. Frank Dwyer, a Fire Department spokesman, said they found “numerous trailers and squatters throughout the building,” as well as a broken standpipe, which is used to provide water to fire hoses.

As a result, the city agencies issued a complete vacate and seal order, in addition to a number of summonses and other citations. The Buildings Department had issued two previous vacate orders at the property, citing, among other things, illegal wiring that posed a fire hazard.

“We acted because there were imminent life safety hazards in that building,” Dwyer said. “We’ve been there several times, and it’s been clear throughout that this is an unsafe location.”

Joe Diamond, a founder of the collective, said the space could easily be brought up to code.

The standpipe, he said, is actually an old steam pipe for a heating system that no longer exists. An art installation obstructing part of the sprinkler system could be quickly dismantled, he said.

“That’s about it,” Diamond said. “The violations were pretty minimal.”

He claimed that the Long Island Rail Road, which owns the land behind 304 Meserole St. where the trailers were parked, put pressure on the Buildings Department to remove them from the warehouse.

“I think they’re concerned that we’ll regain access to the backyard,” he said.

But Ryan Fitzgibbon, a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department, said that the vacate order was imposed because the “conditions at the warehouse posed a threat to tenants’ lives.”

Diamond said that the building’s landlord initially gave them until Wednesday to clear out the cluttered space, which contained an indoor skateboard ramp, a dark room, a recording studio, video equipment and a small koi pond.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit that the Bushwick Project for the Arts had filed against the Long Island Rail Road and Kings Building Supply, a cement mixing company that towed the trailers to the street, accusing them of illegally removing the trailers, has been delayed.

“We’ve been concentrating on finding a new residence for the people in our community,” Cummings said, adding that the group is in the process of singing a lease on a new communal space. He declined to reveal the location, but he stressed that the property is zoned for residential use.

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