JACQUES ROCH sometimes has the sense that he is back in the Paris of the late 50's, once again living in a neighborhood with slant-roofed garrets and bustling street life. But this is no deja vu. Mr. Roch, ponytailed at 60, lives in a loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is a fourth-floor walkup -- ''The freight elevator, it is long kaput,'' he says in a French-tinted lilt -- with pulleys still bolted to the loft's century-old corrugated tin ceilings. Leaning against the walls of the long-defunct factory stand 12-foot-high paintings by Mr. Roch in what he describes as his ''comic-style, dark humor.''For a man like me,'' he says of living in Williamsburg, ''it has to do with Paris in the old days, a kind of nostalgic feeling from when I was one of all the young artists in Paris.''
Mr. Roch is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of artists, craftspeople, art-scene followers and those simply searching for the open space of loft living who have migrated across the East River to old industrial neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, Long Island City and Astoria in Queens, and the South Bronx -- squeezed out of lower Manhattan by a burgeoning luxury loft market in which the average price is closing in on $700,000.
It is a frustrating development for the struggling artists who, unlike the wealthy ones who can afford grand spaces, consider themselves the loft pioneers. They are the ones, they point out, who, with a wink from commercial landlords, slipped into desolate downtown Manhattan factories and warehouses two and three decades ago, built live-in studios by dint of their own hammering, sawing, painting, plumbing and rewiring, and, over time, spurred the creation of vibrant, attractive neighborhoods -- too attractive for the good of those pioneers.
Dennis Hevesefib, The New York Times,1999 extract from full article available online, click here.