This weekend, nine-year-old Williamsburg restaurant Nita Nita shuttered, leaving neighborhood residents with one fewer backyard bar to chill in. On their website, owners Sam and Virginia revealed a "threefold increase" on the restaurant's rent, a situation they note has "become all too familiar." Someone certainly agrees with them, because as of yesterday, the restaurant—and surrounding trees and fire hydrants—has been covered in "Gentrification In Progress" caution tape. It's unclear who put up the tape—the barstaurant's owners, fans or an independent third party. Emails to ownership were not immediately returned.
This type of tape has been seen elsewhere in the borough, recently popping up at a Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, where protestors wrapped the tape around trees and unfurled a traffic-yellow "GENTRIFICATION IN PROGRESS" banner. Bushwick-based street artist Ann Lewis, a.k.a. Gilf, has also deployed the tape on sites where smaller businesses have been pushed out or replaced by big box stores. The Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network "could not confirm or deny" that someone affiliated with the group was involved; Lewis did not immediately return requests for comment on the tape at Nita Nita.
As for Nita Nita itself, the owners say they're "already plotting to rise again—somewhere in Brooklyn, someday in the not-so-distant future." In the face of ever-increasing rents on the trendy north side, some restaurateurs have hooked up with retailers to keep their business alive and that Ralph Lauren could certainly use a touch of neighborhood authenticity. But it wouldn't be a surprise if Nita Nita's owners went in search of less-obscene rents elsewhere in the borough.
Update: Ann Lewis confirms that the tape at Nita Nita was her handiwork:
I have a very personal connection to Nita Nita. I was so disappointed to find out that it was closing. It was such an amazing community of people. There are so many discussions around gentrification and nothing is black and white, but what I will say that when the market dictates a tripling of the rent to $24,000 / month for a 1,000 sq feet the only businesses that can afford that are massive corporations. When you displace small businesses in this manner you participate in the transferring of wealth from the 99% to the 1%. I have a major problem with this. The Small Business Survival Act needs to be passed immediately. The unique culture of New York City is transforming into a strip mall with less parking. My question is: why aren't the City Council members representing the people and passing reform that would keep a place like Nita Nita open? Communities continue to scatter, people are exponentially being displaced, and our representatives are doing nothing about it. That's disgraceful.
Lewis says the owners didn't know she's be doing the taping, but felt it was of personal importance to her as she was recently informed that tenants of her studio and home are being asked to leave. "I feel like displacement is just happening exponentially. I'm truly aghast at how quickly NYC is being monopolized by the wealthy."