Aviv is dead, long live Aviv.
When Olivia Russin, Stuart Solomon, and Zack Wheeler first opened the makeshift Greenpoint venue two years ago in the echo of the Death By Audio’s swan song, it was to replace Emet, a loft in that nebulous neighborhood where Williamsburg bleeds into Bushwick. When it closes at the end of this month, it’ll follow East Williamsburg’s Acheron and Bed-Stuy’s Palisades as another loss of space this year for Brooklyn’s underground. It had the dusty, unpolished atmosphere of much-loved predecessors like 285 Kent or Party Expo. The drinks were cheap, you could smoke inside, and in such a raw space it felt like anything was possible.
The reasons for Aviv’s departure are mundane: As they told Bedford + Bowery last month, their lease is up, and “our landlord doesn’t want to renew for his own reasons, which are pretty reasonable.” They found this out over the summer and began planning their exit in secret. They promise to return, eventually.
It’s a familiar story now: Land—any land—in New York City is so valuable that even the gentrifiers are getting priced out with rapid speed, but three venues closing in a year does not a crisis make. The kids going to shows at Palisades and Acheron didn’t pack up and leave town, they just started going to more shows at Aviv, Shea Stadium, and Silent Barn. The Aviv crew admits they got lucky scoring the Greenpoint space, and while they’re short on cash and credit, they hold out hope their luck will return. In the meantime, upstarts like Sunnyvale, in East Williamsburg near the Queens border; Bushwick’s truly residential Bohemian Grove; and The Gateway, lurking in the shadow of the Gates Avenue J station, will try to fill the void.
Todd Patrick, the former DIY Don gone legit, is trying to prove that DIY can be done both legally and without a million-dollar budget. He’s transformed the old Silent Barn space at 915 Wyckoff in Ridgewood into Trans-Pecos, leasing part of the storefront space to a cafe and hosting daytime programming. But even he needed a $100,000 from a silent partner, 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and endless patience for bureaucracy to resurrect Market Hotel, the former illegal DIY commune at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Broadway.
Even after dotting all their I’s and crossing all their T’s, they got caught in a gotcha by the NYPD, who seized hundreds of bottles and cans of the club’s booze two weeks ago, seemingly just so they could gloatingly tweet about it. The culprit? Their application with the State Liquor Authority for a full liquor license, an essential part of going legit. Once it officially came under review, the temporary permits they typically applied for were immediately denied, forcing them to host dry events until the SLA reached a decision. The cops arrived at the venue before the organizers did, and within two hours of receiving notice of their permit being denied, they were cited for illegally “warehousing alcohol.” It’s unlikely to close permanently, but until the matter is sorted with the SLA, all of Market Hotel’s imminent shows have been moved to other venues.
Despite all of the headaches and bureaucratic hoops to jump through, legal DIY appears to be an achievable compromise that could add some permanence to a scene that’s forever shifting. But even if they didn’t spend millions, the startup capital for spaces like Market Hotel and Palisades still came from somewhere. Solomon says he started Aviv with $1,200 he borrowed from “my one friend with a tech job.” Even after two successful years of shows, without outside financial backing, a legal space is outside the realm of possibility for them, as it is for so many others.
And so the venues creep further and further out, to the edges of industrial Williamsburg and almost into Queens (Sunnyvale), and down the L and J train lines, deeper into Bushwick (Bohemian Grove) and Bed-Stuy (The Gateway). The rooms change, but it’s the same scene. The newcomers are mostly white; their incumbent neighbors, mostly brown. They’ll be fine for a couple years, until the new luxury rentals get filled with twentysomethings carrying expensive gadgets who don’t realize they just moved to a neighborhood where a fool and his Macbook are soon parted. Reports of felonious theft increase along with insurance claims, leading to increased police presence, and yes, more busted DIY venues. It’s what took Market Hotel down the first time, back in 2011—look for it to continue as the gentrification train chugs down Broadway, towards East New York.
Aviv’s final shows run October 20-31. Don’t miss out.