On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the current property owners of the Public Assistants' space at 711 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, notified us that we have 30 days to vacate the premises, forcing us to move and immediately find a new HQ location amidst a pandemic.
This is alarming, but not unforeseen, as we had assurances from them that our lease would likely run through the end of summer 2021. The terms of our occupancy here have always been at risk of sudden termination due to the systemic prioritization of profit over community. Safe havens for the queer Black and brown young people who make up our community, are both rare and fast disappearing, making our continued existence crucial.
We do not wish to further escalate into conflict, a situation and relationship that have been fraught with uncertainty from the start. We are intent on transitioning from our current space safely, securely, and with dignity. While it’s not an easy decision to start anew, our roots in Crown Heights transcend the walls of 711 Franklin. We seek a stable, hospitable environment in which to flourish for years to come.
Who we are:
Public Assistants is a mutual aid network, design lab, and resistance hub. Founded on June 6, 2020 as an organizing base in response to the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic and global socio-political uprisings, Public Assistants has both led and partnered a number of community initiatives since its recent inception. Among them, a paid youth mural residency program to empower and employ young community members through public art making, an open call radio program, a free bike repair and refurbish initiative, a community fridge and garden, toy and coat drives, hot meal/care package distribution events, and wellness workshops for collective care and resilience. In addition to community programming, our interdisciplinary team of artists, makers, organizers, and builders have the capacity to design, produce, and fabricate just about anything.
Banners, sets, and media for protest and direct action
Sustainable green design
All of our services to QTBIPOC members of the community are pro-bono and donation based.
How did we get here?
In June 2020, during the massive uprisings in support of Black Lives, the property managers approached us and offered to license us space at 711 Franklin. They made it clear that they were offering us the use of the space in support of our movement work, although we were not naive to the fact that a deal involving real estate is never purely altruistic.
The building had become a burden on the neighborhood, having been left unattended by the developers for several years, with no regard for the surrounding community. The space consisted of an abandoned corner property-- an unheated, unconditioned shell of a building with significant water damage, and an outdoor lot. Through all this, we could see the potential for a beautiful community space for resistance and the cultivation of radical joy.
With support from the community, we accepted the offer, signed an agreement, and undertook a major renovation to make the spaces habitable, investing sweat equity from volunteers and donated materials. What was once a corner acquired and neglected, has become an interdisciplinary production and design lab, mutual aid network, and neighborhood resistance hub.
Over the last few months, the management company suddenly reappeared and began to show the space to possible renters while disregarding us as viable tenants. It’s come to light their intent to convert the space into a gourmet supermarket, one of a half dozen similar recent developments already clustered in the area, catering to the new, affluent residents of Crown Heights over long term community members.
Why act now?
The fight for Public Assistants’ future HQ is a fight against gentrification and displacement, a fight for families, a fight for artists, a fight for youth, a fight to protect safe spaces for QTBIPOC folks, a fight for the community that we are a reflection of.
The creatives, organizers, healers, growers, builders, and makers of Public Assistants are committed to radical love, rage at injustice, and a revolution that is filled with spirit and art. This space is a testament to what is possible when we gather, organize, and thrive.
Onward and upward!
Here are our action steps and ways for you to lend support:
1. We need financial support now more than ever. This GoFundMe of $500,000 will allow us to fundraise for a long-term, secure lease in Brooklyn and continue to support our many programming initiatives. As an interdisciplinary production and design lab, we require adequate space (roughly 3,500-5,000 sf) to execute projects effectively. With the current market rate for commercial space in Crown Heights around $40/sf, we seek to raise funds for a minimum of two years rent, the ability to safely relocate our organization, possible storage costs during the transition, and to support our collective mission.
2. Help spread the word! Our extended coalition has held us down with their love and support and for that, we have the deepest gratitude. Please continue to share our mission and our fundraising campaign with your friends, family, and followers.
3. Any leads on commercial spaces? We seek a unique environment to house our ever-expanding capacities. You can reach us at team @ publicassistants.org if you’d like to get in touch.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE DO:
Public Assistants, a Resistance Community Space, Opens in Crown Heights - CURBED
The Black Pages - Interview Magazine
Where We’re At - Art Forum
In struggle and in love,
Public Assistants Website
Public Assistants on Instagram
- Mark Edio
- sacha peet
- Jamie Catino
- eric mozes
- Joshua Smith
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