February 23, 1997

'Arts Group Wins Eviction Battle'
by Andrew Jacobs

ABC No Rio, the brash arts center that for three years has been battling eviction from its city-owned building, received an unexpected reprieve recently from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

After a raucous sit-in at the agency's headquarters on Feb. 5, startled protestors were invited by the outgoing commissioner, Liliam Barrios-Paoli, to a meeting at which she agreed to drop the eviction proceedings.

As part of the tentative agreement, a half-dozen squatters living in the ramshackle building at 156 Rivington Street will leave to allow the center to renovate and expand. Ms. Barrios-Paoli also said ABC NO Rio must come up with a financial; plan to refurbish the building and raise at least $100,000 for the project.

"If they can prove that they're capable of raising a substantial amount of money, I will give them the building for $1," she said.

The deal would nullify plans by Asian Americans for Equality, a non-profit housing developer in Chinatown, to convert the four-story tenement into affordable housing.

"We're really shocked," said ABC No Rio's president, Dave Powell. "It just goes to show you that resistence pays." Other members of the arts center's board plan to seek loans and grants to pay for renovations.

Born out of anti-gentrification protests in 1980, ABC No Rio quickly became an avant-garde performance and gallery space renowned for its free-form poetry readings and ear-splitting punk rock concerts. But since 1994, when the city stopped accepting its rent checks, ABC No Rio has been locked in a struggle for survival.

Christopher Kui, the Asian group's organization's executive director, said he was not disappointed by the city's decision. "I can understand the change," he said.

Ms. Barrios-Paoli, who was recently appointed Commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration, said that Asian Americans for Equality was "feeling a lot of angst to be at odds with another community prganization."

She added, "This is one of those rare situations where everyone is happy."

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ABC No Rio: The Culture of Opposition Since 1980