Versions of the Loft Law have governed conversions until this year, when the application deadline for coverage passed on June 15th. New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs worked with the Buildings Department to spread the word among its community, sending out reminders beginning in late April.
Over its 35-year existence, roughly a thousand buildings were converted under the law; of those, about 200 came under a 2010 extension, according to research conducted by Angela Co, Julie Torres Moskovitz, and Xiaoyin Li during a 2016 fellowship at the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA). The three architects mapped the city’s loft conversions, and interviewed current tenants of several Brooklyn buildings on how their live/work lofts make possible the kinds of creative livelihoods that seem increasingly untenable in New York—artist, musician, dancer, gallerist, DJ, chef, journalist—and encourage collaboration and community.
Moskovitz said her research into the Loft Law deepened her appreciation for how laws like it protect artists and residents, both from her perspective as an architect who is concerned first and foremost with a building’s safety, and as a self-employed worker who can’t afford a separate office, and lives and works in her Williamsburg loft.
She said the unique protections of New York’s Loft Law were especially salient in the wake of the tragic fire at the Oakland warehouse Ghost Ship, which took the lives of 36 people, many young artists or musicians, who were living in what were revealed to be unsafe conditions.
“The fact that our city has Loft Law as a pathway to making a building safer without kicking out tenants is amazing,” she said, noting it has become a model for other cities. A representative from City of Oakland Fire Safety Task Force met with Loft Board staff members in May, a spokesman for New York City’s Department of Buildings confirmed.