December 13, 1995

'ABC No Rio Moves Nearer To Being Ousted'
by Michael Haberman

The ABC No Rio performance space suffered a major setback in their bid to remain at their current location when a City Council committee voted last week to turn 156 Rivington Street over to Asian Americans for Equality.

The building was enrolled in the city's enterprise program last October. The program provides funds to community organizations to rehabilitate city-owned buildings into low-income housing. A.A.F.E. was chosen by the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development as the agency for this project and their decision was supported by Community Board 3.

ABC No Rio had a month-to-month lease with H.P.D. and last year was notified the lease was being terminated. Since August, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger's office has been serving as an intermediary to see if ABC No Rio can occupy part of the building after it is rehabilitated.

According to Frank Lang, A.A.F.E.'s neighborhood development association, his group was willing to try to accommodate ABC No Rio. After being contacted by ABC No Rio, they altered a plan to convert the building to four two-bedroom low-income apartments and proposed three units with one ground floor commercial unit to be occupied by ABC No Rio.

But ABC No Rio submitted their own proposal to renovate the building that included the creation of a non-profit Housing Development Fund Corp. comprised of the building residents and ABC No Rio.

"The H.D.F.C. would secure funding and financing to renovate the residential units and building-wide systems," the proposal says. "The proposal provides the physical improvement of the site in a cost-effective manner, provides ABC No Rio a stable, secure and affordable home over which it has control and keeps affordable housing on the market."

The proposal, which includes estimates from an architect and letters from potential funders, says the renovation could be completed for $217,025. But Steven Englander of ABC No Rio said the council committee never saw their proposal and the committee stuck with the recommendation of H.P.D. and C.B.3.

Councilmember Kathryn Freed said she encouraged ABC No Rio to try to buy the building several years ago. She said the most important thing now is for someone to move ahead with the project.

Over the past few months, supporters of ABC No Rio have been protesting A.A.F.E.'s control of the building at C.B.3 meetings and even brought a housing committee meeting to an end by drowning out Lang's presentation. They are protesting not only for the performance space but for the people who are currently living there and are being evicted. The city considers them illegal tenants.

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