The popular urban art and hip-hop collective The Rebel Díaz, founded four years ago by South Bronx youth, closed its doors after being evicted on the morning of February 28.
A young artist named Claudia de la Cruz explained that NYPD officers arrived with the building superintendent to clear out the 5,000-square-foot space, which is located in an industrial zone.
“Paintings, musical instruments, and recording equipment were damaged and barbarically thrown out into the street,” said Cruz. “The landlord ordered the locks to be changed. We can’t go inside our space now because we would be accused of breaking and entering.”
The collective, made up of 25 youths ages 17 to 24, mourned the closing of a place that offered community services in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Bronx.
Gonzalo Venegas, 28, likened the eviction to criminalizing young artists and demanded that the site be kept open.
Venegas underscored how hard the collective worked to open a vibrant center for hip-hop culture.
“Activities like Open Mic draw around 200 artists from the city each month,” he said. “We won’t let them destroy a community center that we practically created ourselves.”
Rodrigo Venegas, 33, explained that the collective faced a rent increase they didn’t agree upon, despite constant dialogue with the landlord after their lease ended last November.
The co-founder of The Rebel Díaz, known as RodStarz, said the group was paying $1,400 in rent, but later on, the landlord decided to raise the amount to $2,400 in the new contract.
“You can’t raise the rent so arbitrarily,” he stressed. “The little we were able to recover [from the inside] we put in a bodega.”
Venegas emphasized that the space, located amidst factories close to the Bruckner Expressway, was originally abandoned and restored in 2008 by local youth who were seeking a safe place where they could express themselves.
Marc Pogostin, the landlord with the Austin Property Corp., said the collective was evicted for not having paid rent since September.