Villager Article on Tribes Eviction

Tribes’ last stand? Gallery icon told to vacate buildingBy Aidan Gardiner

After living under the looming threat of eviction for a year, Steve Cannon, the blind arts patron who runs the Gathering of the Tribes gallery out of his apartment at 285 E. Third St., has been asked by his landlord to vacate the premises no later than Tues., Jan. 31.

But Cannon said he isn’t willing to leave without a fight. He’s begun consulting lawyers he knows in hopes of securing a pro-bono real estate attorney who can help him.

“By hook or by crook, I’ll get a lawyer,” he said.

Cannon said that because his sole focus right now is securing counsel, he has yet to determine what he’ll do if he fails and is forced to leave. He said that he hopes to continue to publish the arts magazine associated with his gallery, but doesn’t know where he’ll live or the future for Tribes.

“I’ll just close it down, I guess,” he said. “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Cannon has long been a fixture of the East Village arts world. He moved to the neighborhood in the 1960s and began making a name for himself. He opened Tribes in 1989 as an art gallery, but it quickly became a performance venue, too, featuring up-and-coming artists and bigger names like Ishmael Reed and Wynton Marsalis.

Once he has an attorney, Cannon will be able to fight the eviction outright, but until then, he’s pursuing stall tactics. Toward the end of January, he plans to file what’s called a “show of cause,” which will compel his landlord, Lorraine Zhang, to appear before a court and explain why she’s evicting him.

Cannon said he hopes this will delay his eviction a little longer and give him time to strategize further.

The bitter relationship between Cannon and Zhang came to a head roughly a year ago when she put the building up for sale, thus threatening his stay there.

The building is currently off the market. Cannon said he doubts that someone has bought it.

The first term of Cannon’s lease expired in 2009, and Zhang said that he didn’t officially renew his lease and that she could evict him at any time.

Cannon, however, said he continued to pay rent, which constituted an ex post facto renewal, which Zhang disputed.

Cannon originally owned the building, but sold it to Zhang in 2004 because he was facing some financial problems.

Once again faced with the prospect of losing his home, Cannon is doing what he can to cling to it. He plans to meet with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez sometime on Friday and tell as many people as he can about his plight.

“I have to get more people to know about it and then the better off I’ll be,” he said. “All you have to do is think, how can you help me.”