Empty East New York lot given 'ReNew-ed' life
by Patrick Kearns
Apr 28, 2015 | 8083 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
East New York Artist Sophia Dawson will display her portrait series at one of the ReNew Lots incubators.
East New York Artist Sophia Dawson will display her portrait series at one of the ReNew Lots incubators.
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New Lots Avenue has a new look under the elevated train: a shipping crate market and artists incubators. With its official opening on April 23, ReNew Lots is hoping to be a catalyst for economic and artist growth.

Borough President Eric Adams praised the initiative – a partnership between ARTs East New York and the city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – at its grand opening.

"Once again, community-driven development led by ARTs East New York has found an innovative way to repurpose vacant land to a higher and better use,” Adams said. “Through this partnership with EDC, a formerly underutilized space – a prized commodity in Brooklyn – will create training opportunities and jobs, while providing local food and retail services to a community in demand of resources.”

This partnership developed two vacant lots and repurposed ten shipping containers into affordable storefronts for area merchants and food vendors, four containers for visual arts studios and two containers for art exhibitions and events.

Local artists were happy to showcase their work to the community in hopes to show young people that art is important and has a future.

“I live walking distance from here,” said Sophia Dawsom, whose exhibition is titled “Wet Paint.” “It’s good to be based here, where I can walk from here and connect with people that I live with.”

Dawson, is currently working on two portrait series, which depict victims of police brutality and political prisoners from the black liberation movement. She also gets commissioned to do murals all over the city.

One of the most important aspects of her work, as it’ll be right out in the open for all passersby to see, is how she can connect with the children. She pointed out that New York City has the most segregated schools in the country and this is a chance for the children in the community to see that East New York has value.

“It’s going to be cool for them,” Dawson said. “They’re going to see value in their community.”

Stephen Small-Warrer, an artist from Bed-Stuy whose work is being featured, said that it’s an extremely powerful project because it shows that the business community and the art community can be featured together.

“[Arts and business together] is something that keeps the culture and the vibrancy here,” Small-Warrer said.

That was a big focus of ReNew Lots: to show how the arts and business community go hand-in-hand. ARTs East New York was involved in developing the notion that the two can work together and bring positive change to the community.

“We are living in a new world, it’s the age of the innovator,” said Catherine Green, executive director of ARTs East New York. “Entrepreneurs and creative thinkers are changing the landscape of how we live and we do business.”

It’s a model that can be applied to the rest of the city and even prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to proclaim April 23, 2015, “ARTs East New York ReNew Lots Day.”

“Underutilized lots across the city have the potential to be transformed into key community assets, driving local economic growth and meeting the needs of individual neighborhoods,” said EDC President Kyle Kimball.

This vacant land renewal project to promote economic growth is actually the second of its kind in Brooklyn.

In October 2014, EDC and Community Solutions opened a marketplace in Brownsville on Mother Gaston Boulevard. The Brownsville marketplace was placed on a formerly vacant 2,500-square-foot lot and offered locally made food, clothing, accessories, cosmetics and more in freestanding vendor kiosks and modified shipping containers.

ReNew Lots Market and Artist Incubator, 175 New Lots Avenue, will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

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