Gotta make room for….you guessed it!…. more condos.
The clock is ticking away once again for Times Up! Less than one month after losing their long-time headquarters at 49 Houston St., a hot real estate market is forcing the grassroots alternative transportation and environmental group to move again. Rent will double next month for the space Times Up! shares with The Hub bike shop in the West Village, which means the group is back in the hunt for space to house their myriad workshops, actions and offices.
“We know it was a month-to-month lease, but not even three weeks after we get there, they tell us the rent has been doubled” said Bill Dipaloa, Director of Times Up! and space manager for the shop. “We haven’t even unpacked half the boxes.”
Despite the rent increase, bikes will continue to be a part of the Hub’s current location, because a company that makes cargo and ad bikes inked a five-year lease on Times Up!’s current location. “At this time, we’re optimistic, that at least some variation on the theme of this space will continue” said George Bliss, the Hub’s owner. “It’s likely that the store will have to go through a big change, maybe have to do a focus on higher-end stuff, instead of trying to deal with everyone who comes in the door, just to pay the rent.”
Times Up! was first uprooted after their landlord at 49 Houston St. sold to developers after years of barely making the rent. Their previous landlord, Steve Stollman, gave the organization a year to raise the funds to meet higher rents before asking them to leave.
“We’ve been using that space for 10 years, and for the past two years we’ve been having weekly meetings trying to save the space” he said. “Times Up! was extremely successful when it was in that space. Unfortunately doing good work and being extremely successful doesn’t pay the bills.”
This new move will also impede one of Times Up!’s primary activities over the years: providing meeting and collaboration space for activist groups of all stripes. Besides the cycling resources it offered to all comers, the organization played host to puppet and banner making and regular activist movie screenings, Dipaloa said.
An outside chance remains that Times Up! could return to 49 Houston St. in the future. The previous owner, Steve Stollman retains a buyback option for ground-floor retail in the building that will be constructed.
“He’s going to move back to the 1st floor, there’s a contract for him whereby he sold the space to my clients, and there’s a buyback provision for the first floor for him, and he’ll have a continued presence,” said architect Arpad Baksa. “I think it’s a good thing for the community.”
However, rising rents on the Lower East Side could thwart the group’s dreams once again. “If the neighborhood continues to gentrify wildly, that may be more difficult” Stollman said. “I’m not getting that space back for 2 years, and since my expenses will be higher, rent will be much more expensive, and might be too rich for them.”
Times Up!’s struggle with Manhattan real estate will continue. They plan to host a benefit party on the 25th , in the hopes of raising money to stay in place, or find a stable location soon. Diapaloa hopes the event will draw awareness to their work and their role in the community.
“We’re using this party on the 25th to bring attention to save the space,” Diapaloa said. “That was how we used to save community gardens, you bring people into a space and tell them ‘This is being destroyed in a few days’ and sometimes they’re really willing to make a change.”