The loft building at 49 Bleecker Street in Noho. Image: Google maps.
There have been a lot of discussions recently about the city’s lack of affordable living space causing artists to flee the city, and about the relevance of regulations like the Loft Law, created to allow artists to live in neighborhoods like Noho and Soho. The New York Post now brings us the case of millionaire movie producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, 31, and his wife, model/actress Emily Ratajkowski, 27. The pair is reportedly living rent-free in a sprawling Noho loft at 49 Bleecker Street. The pair’s landlord, of course, isn’t happy with the fact that Bear-McClard, who is apparently worth an estimated $12 million, has been claiming protection under the state’s Loft Law since 2017, to the tune of $120,000
To complicate things, the couple has actually been subletting the 1,100 square-foot second-floor loft in the former manufacturing building since 2013. The unit’s leaseholder, Antoni Ghosh, has claimed in Manhattan Civil Court that after his lease expired in 2017, Bear-McClard stopped paying the $4,900 monthly rent and currently owes a total of $120,000. The space was originally the art studio of oil painter Joanne Corneau, who left in the 1990s.
Ghosh feels the wealthy semi-celebrity freeloaders are taking unfair advantage of a legal loophole meant to give struggling artists a place to live and work. The state law was enacted in 1982 to keep landlords from evicting artists and other low-income tenants who were, at the time, living illegally in commercial lofts.
And, of course, there’s the concept of primary lease-holders taking advantage of the opportunity to rent out their protected apartments to wealthy semi-celebrities. This unit in the same building, for example, was seeking short-term tenants for $6,500 a month.
The law says tenants can’t be evicted if the building they live in doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy–49 Bleecker does not–or installed fire and other safety protections. More buildings were added in an expansion of the Loft Law in 2010, and state lawmakers may soon pass a revised version that could add renter protections for 300 additional buildings.
Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for a coalition of loft building owners that includes the Noho building, said, “Here is a prime example, in prime NYC real estate, where an uber-wealthy celebrity couple and tenant can take advantage and exploit a law that was intended for truly struggling artists and low-income families in need of affordable housing.”
Bear-McClard, whose net worth is apparently $11.7 million according to an entertainment site that tracks Hollywood stars, claims, via his attorney, Michael Kozek, that he is “fighting to save his home, which he has lived in for years. He’s an artist. Born and raised New Yorker and a child of artists who themselves fought to save their homes, including under the Loft Law.”
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Neighborhoods : Noho