Rappers claim they were evicted to make way for yuppies
By David Greene
BRONX, NEW YORK, March 13- A community space serving hundreds of teens and young adults each month and run by members of the popular rap trio, "Rebel Diaz," has been shut after being evicted from their Mott Haven loft.
According to members of the community space, known as the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective of the Bronx (RDACBX) members of the NYPD were joined by Federal marshals who raided the building on Austin Place on February 28.
According to Rodrigo Venegas, who performs under the name, RodStarz, "He (the landlord) openly said, 'I have no interest in working with the community.' He said, 'Personally, I want you out of here.'"
Venegas claims he and the landlord Austin Realty Group had a verbal agreement to start a new lease last November, when Venegas explains, "He increased it by 100 percent, he gave us a $1,000 increase out of nowhere. He even offered us money to get out of the space."
The reason behind the land grab Venegas claims, "The South Bronx is going through an abrupt process of gentrification that I think is sneaking up on a lot of us. A block away we have a 16-story condominium being built that is going to have one- bedroom apartments starting at $1,200 or $1,300. We have seen a rezoning of the West part of the Bronx by Yankee Stadium and we know that this part is next."
Venegas claimed that in more than three years since they began hosting concerts and open mic nights at the former abandoned factory, the police had never been called, not a single time for a disturbance.
Venegas concluded, "We are public enemy # 1 in these streets. Our young people are being hunted in these streets and you just closed a space that for the last three-and-a-half years was keeping young people off the streets."
The rebels admit the landlord was against some murals recently painted on the roof, visible to the nearby Bruckner Expressway, but say the hip-hop concerts; seminars and workshops have benefited the community, since they took over the space.
The group says they spent $8,000 on a new electrical system and installed a professional recording studio and a performance stage that through various programs and workshops, served between 500 and 700 teens and young adults each month.
Former member Karen Louviere, 19, recalled the invasion of the groups space, stating, "They came in with armed officers into what is suppose to be a safe space for the community. A space that has served as an alternative for young people in the area, helping develop their talents in a positive way."
Calls to the New Rochelle-based landlord were not immediately returned but in one published report, the landlord's attorney said it was, "nothing personal," for the group's ouster other than complaints from neighbors, graffiti and having not paid rent since September.
In response to the eviction, more than 150 supporters shutdown Austin Place during an illegal gathering the following evening as the group used the electric, they installed-- one last time. As a wire was run from their former space to a light and sound system where a deejay would spin records for the next several hours.
NYPD patrol cars circled the area, but never came down the street. The crowd eventually disbanded, but the group has vowed to find another location.