BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | That one of the East Village’s cultural treasures now finds itself on the ropes is a damning testament to Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo’s failure to help small businesses, especially during the pandemic.
So says Village activist attorney Arthur Schwartz, who is part of the legal team fighting a predatory creditor’s attempt to sell Theatre 80 St. Mark’s out from under its current owner, Lorcan Otway.
The creditor, Maverick, was preparting to move ahead with scheduling an auction of the property, at 80 St. Mark’s Place between First and Second Avenues, for sometime in early January. But one day before a temporary restraining order blocking the sale was set to expire, Otway on Wed., Dec. 30, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Schwartz told The Village Sun the legal strategy will be to try to “undermine” the creditor’s claim.
Beyond that, he was incensed that the powers that be have allowed this situation to happen, all the while throwing massive amounts of money at, in his view, misguided priorities.
“Besides advocating for some kind of legislative fix, we plan on using the stay created by the bankruptcy filing to attack what Maverick did, and try to undermine their claim,” Schwartz said. “Time will also allow Lorcan to seek a new loan, or even a benefactor.
“What is happening here is part of the failure of de Blasio and Cuomo, who did so little to help small businesses survive the pandemic,” the attorney charged. “People can wring their hands and bemoan the loss of cultural institutions, but action is what is needed.”
Schwartz recently pushed de Blasio to the limit by representing community opponents in a lawsuit against the destructive East Side Coastal Resiliency megaproject. The attorney argued the case all the way up to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but ultimately did not prevail. However, clearly worried that he might, the city shockingly had workers going round the clock the weekend before the court case was resolved, hacking down decades-old trees and ripping up benches and pathways in the park’s southern half, trying to obliterate as much as humanly possible.
“It’s hard for me to put aside the $1.2 billion being spent on destroying East River Park, and then see how a half of one percent of that money could save this theater,” Schwartz fumed. “Local officials need to step up, and push for relief for places like this which have survived the pandemic.”
During de Blasio’s two terms in office, advocates repeatedly pushed for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act to be allowed to come up for a vote by the full City Council. A hearing was held on the bill, but Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the legislation was too broad and needed to be modified.
The other half of Otway’s legal team is a bankruptcy lawyer.
“It could be that all litigation happens through the bankruptcy court,” Schwartz noted. “So then the trustee appointed by the court is in charge. The trustee comes along with a lawyer, who looks at assets for fees [to pay off the creditor].”
Schwartz said that he had suggested the Chapter 11 strategy to Otway months ago, but that the theater owner was holding out hope of finding a benefactor.
“I pushed again recently, and he agreed,” he said.