Artists told to pay rent

By Albert Amateau

A panel convened by the American Arbitration Association on Dec. 14 awarded

Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center a total of $33,660 in back rent from artists — members of Artists Alliance Inc. — who failed to pay C.S.V. rent for their studios at 107 Suffolk St.

The award is the latest incident in the nine-year battle between A.I.A. and C.S.V., which manages the building owned by the City Department of Cultural Affairs, to provide studios and offices for local graphic and performance artists.

The award covers the period from July 1, 2001, to April 18, 2006, when C.V.S. adopted new bylaws drafted by Cultural Affairs and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

Several of the nonpaying artists deposited the rent with A.I.A. over the past five years and the arbitration panel ruled that A.I.A. “wrongfully diverted rental payments owed to C.S.V.” The panel gave A.I.A. 30 days from the award date to make good on the payment.

“We’re going to wait the 30 days and if we haven’t received payment, we’ll begin proceedings to take possession of those studios,” said Luis Cancel, C.S.V. director.

Shelley McGuinness, president of A.I.A., said later that A.I.A. filed a lawsuit last October challenging the basis for the arbitration.

“We did not agree to the arbitration and we do not recognize it,” she said.

The suit challenged the Honest Ballot Association election of C.S.V. directors who adopted the April bylaws, which called for arbitration of rent disputes. But Justice Emily Jane Goodman, declined to enjoin the arbitration, Cancel said.

“The city mandated arbitration as part of the bylaws. The suit was a last-ditch legal stand,” Cancel said.

A.I.A., a group of artists who rent studios at 107 Suffolk St., have charged that C.S.V. has mismanaged the building.