Downtown performance artist Reverend Jen Miller's tiny Lower East Side apartment has been home to hundreds of trolls and many "magical" parties over the years, but it now appears the spell may finally be broken. On Thursday, Miller—known as "the Elf" among the LES artist community—received a visit from a City Marshal. In what became a tense encounter, the official informed her that her landlord, Misrahi Realty, was evicting her from her sixth story Orchard Street walk-up, which doubles as New York's only Troll Museum. "They physically removed me," says Miller, who's been staying with a friend, John Foster, for the past five days.
The court granted Miller access to the apartment from 10-4 p.m. on Tuesday for the removal of her possessions, but after two decades of accruing art, knick knacks, Miller is at a loss about where to store her one-of-a-kind collection. "I have no fucking idea where all this is going to go," she said, sitting on a wilting pink-velvet couch, "I guess I should get online and tell people they can come by and buy it off me. Or just take it. I don't fucking care."
Glum-faced neighbors and fans arrived to help Miller pack up, heaping troll dolls into plastic bags and removing psychedelic art from crowded walls. "We're just trying to do anything we can to support her," said Jen Tobin, a musician, who says Miller was "like a mother" to many in the LES arts community, where she ran experimental "Anti Slam open mics" and hosted concerts in the Troll Museum's shower ("the acoustics are great," explained Foster).
"Around Jen, everyone is welcome," said George Courtney, a photographer and astrologer who has known Miller for over ten years, as he detached a troll poster from the wall. "At her open mics, everyone got a ten [out of ten], everyone got a chance on stage," added Tobin.
The volunteers returned periodically to Miller's side, hovering anxiously as she puffed on an e-cigarette and spoke hoarsely to the few reporters present. She recounted moving into 122 Orchard in 1995, at which time, she says, she was the only white resident of the building. Now, hers is one of only three remaining rent-stabilized apartments in the building, set at $1,590 a month, according to Miller.
"Rent stabilization just makes owners more greedy, and they'll go to any lengths to get people out so they can raise the price," she said.
Miller admitted she hasn't paid rent since last summer, when a series of illnesses landed her in the hospital and out of work, but she insisted she never received warnings of an impending eviction. "On Thursday, they came to tell me I was post-eviction," she said, and "I was shocked." For now, Miller hopes to get a stay for at least three months, she said, but warned that if she's not granted a stay, she may refuse to leave anyway. "I'm at the end of my rope," she said, shaking her head. "I guess they can arrest me. Let them."
While Miller and her friends are still weighing potential recourse, it seems the days of the Troll Museum have ended, and with it, said Tobin, another important part of the "real" LES. "The Museum, the parties, the open mics—it was part of what made the LES the weird, wonderful place that it was. [Miller] played a big part of keeping it that way."
While her friends described her as a "fighter," after a few hours of watching her apartment come apart, Miller appeared shaken. "This shit is out of hand," she said, a crate of grubby dolls at her feet.
Misrahi Realty did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.