Cancer Ward: Shuttered W’burg art center regulars blame closure on greed

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

There are three words that locked-out regulars say do not describe Williamsburg’s abruptly shuttered arts center.

Community work space.

Teachers and members of Third Ward, which closed without warning on Wednesday, say the do-it-yourself hub was driven into the ground by a greedy administration that focused more on expanding the brand than sticking to the Morgan Avenue complex’s original mission of teaching arts, leaving its classrooms and work spaces shiny shells of their former selves.

“In the last three months, the place was empty but it looked amazing,” said Ryan OConnor, who taught sculpture at Third Ward for four years.

Within the past year, Third Ward raised its membership and class prices and stopped offering lab or work hours with classes, driving craftspeople and pupils away in droves, and all the while putting investor money into renovations, O’Connor said.

Nor were there warnings of the sudden closure that left customers holding worthless memberships and teachers out of a job.

Third Ward sent e-mails announcing the shuttering to members on Wednesday night, hours after the news broke online, saying that all memberships were canceled and would not be refunded.

“Unfortunat­ely, you will not have an opportunity to use your membership after today at 6 pm, and we will not be able to refund any payments made for members services that have not been fully utilized before that time,” wrote founder Jason Goodman, who told the New York Times that he knew the project had cash-flow problems but waited to make the announcement because of paperwork issues.

The news left people who had forked over cash to take classes such as instrument-making with a serious case of the blues.

“It’s just a shame,” said Mary Hawkins, who had six months left on a $48 membership that granted her discounts on classes.

Teachers were not given a heads up either, though some had a sense that there was trouble in the main office.

“There was a possibility that something like this was going to happen in the next year, but no one thought it would happen so abruptly,” O’Connor said.

But as some Brooklynites lamented the death of their hand-made haven, a few others scrambled to try to help.

The building’s leasing company reached out to artists to work out deals that would let them keep their studio spaces for less than what they were paying to Third Ward.

“We want to keep the keep the creative vibe of Third Ward,” said Nigel Shamash, a leasing agent with Nsnyre.

The adult education clearinghouse Brooklyn Brainery in Prospect Heights started a Third Ward match-making service on Thursday, offering to try to pair out-of-work Third Ward teachers with arts education programs throughout the city.

“We don’t have the capacity to take on a whole bunch of new teachers, but it sucks to see so many people out of their gigs,” Brooklyn Brainery cofounder Jen Messier said.

Others started a web site called with the mission of forming a member-run, cooperative set of studios in the space, Gothamist reported.

Third Ward’s sudden demise comes in the midst of major corporate expansion. In the past year, the self-described makers paradise opened a branch in Philadelphia and announced plans to start a food industry incubator in Crown Heights. The company also tried to stymie the economic bleeding through an internet fund-raiser that yielded $375,000, far less than the $1.5-million it was seeking. The Philadelphia branch closed along with the Williamsburg flagship on Wednesday and the future of the Crown Heights project is in doubt.

Jason Goodman did not return repeated calls for comment and realtor Chris Havens, who is facilitating the Crown Heights development, would not say what Third Ward’s demise means for the foodie-plex’s future.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

bkmanhatposeur from brokeland says:
I met some nice people there, instructors & students. I hope out of this that a new viable community art center in Brooklyn will take its place.
Though I haven't attended drink-n-draw or any art classes due to other commitments I will miss this place.
I hope the teachers & staff found jobs or something to rely on.

Oct. 11, 2013, 10:30 am
Diehipster from the block says:
Nyahnyahnyahnyah! And no one will ever suspect that Diehipster was the brains behind Third World! My nefarious plans to ruin the lives of hipsters will continue unchecked! Not only will I destroy them, but I'll take their money beforehand! Nyahnyahnyah!
Oct. 11, 2013, 10:31 am
Bob from Crown Hts says:
Whoever this diehipster loser is can stop. We're all convinced he's an idiot with low self esteem. We get it. We're all so sad for you. Now get lost, loser!
Oct. 11, 2013, 1:18 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
Kudos to the members of the Third Ward for taking an initiative to keep the place going.

It is a testament to the vision of the founders, and totally inappropriate to call them "greedy" just because the place went broke and they want to bail.

It's not welfare. And the people who start and run initiatives like this in the arts are not social workers. It doesn't surprise me in the least that people with the moxy to start something like the Third Ward want to move on after a while and maybe try something else.

I took the welding class at 3rd Ward and it was awesome. But I could see place had an ambitious range and wondered how they managed it. And when I came across a branch in the mall in Chelsea, I wondered even more.

The 3rd Ward was a pioneer in the whole doctrine of a "creative economy" upon which so much of the Brooklyn Risorgimento stands. But getting traction for such an economy requires scores of intensely focused entrepreneurs in specialized fields. Obviously these entrepreneurs exist in Brooklyn, and the 3rd Ward is partly to thank for that.

But it's probably for the better that the serious businesses in that building now reorganize in their own way. And maybe someone will start a new drink-and-draw session somewhere else. That was great fun. A lot of great ideas came out of the 3rd Ward. I salute Goodman and his partners and wish them well in their next endeavors.
Oct. 13, 2013, 4:08 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
"The 3rd Ward was a pioneer in the whole doctrine of a "creative economy" upon which so much of the Brooklyn Risorgimento stands. "
3rd ward was a pioneer in ripping people off. you hipster fantasy has turned to dust. Glad you enjoyed your welding class. I had beers last night with a couple of buddies from Local 40. You know, the Ironworkers union. Look at any construction site in NYC and this are the men (real men) with the brown helmets. Check out this concept, the GET PAID TO WELD!!!!!!!! Want to weld in NYC and make a living? Then you need to be in local 40. Nice of you to give your money to Jason Goodman. He , and his houses in Montauk thank you. Hope your welding class leads to you making me a better cup off coffee in the morning at your barista internship.
Oct. 13, 2013, 6:21 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
Swampy. Point taken. I actually agree with you.

The problem with 3rd Ward is that it was spread much too thinly over too many disciplines. A "nice idea." But a nice idea doesn't make a viable wood shop here, a profitable metal shop there, a kick-ass photography outfit upstairs.

The actual businesses that do these things happen because people are focused on those businesses. And many of those businesses rented from the 3rd Ward, are still in business, and still in the building. They want to stay and the landlord also wants them to stay.

But those are different businesses with different business models from the 3rd Ward itself.

So yes, an ongoing survey of different trades, with various introductory lessons to those trades, works only so far. I am not surprised that this business model collapsed after a time.

My welding instructor at 3rd Ward was a professional, with a real job in a local shop. I got good value from that class, and it was not expensive, a few hundred bucks for a dozen classes or so. I don't feel I was "cheated" by Jason Goodman. I got what I paid for and it was worth while.

But it was a survey, an introduction, an eye-opener, and a fun time. The 3rd Ward vision has the right idea. But the reality of a creative economy doesn't start until you get the Ironworkers local and the metal shops involved. The business is there, but there's a long way to go.
Oct. 13, 2013, 7:17 pm
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
has nothing to do with "creative". The "creative" was done by the architect. The welders job is to build according to spec. The people that get to make the decisions about how things look in this great city are the architects, designers and engineers and they all have engineering degrees. Math, science, physics. 6 years of math and science. Welders just build. not a bad life, but you don't get to decide what something looks like. Look at the Geary building. Did the welder or the architect decide what that looked like? ART, ART, ART ,ART well and fine....but you have to sit for the math if you want to be a decider. the welder does what he is told......if he is in the union. If not, the welder pretends to be in the union and makes my coffee
Oct. 13, 2013, 8:24 pm
Ethan from the Slope says:
Ha! Whatever. The guy filled a building with new businesses, then his own business tanked. There you go, not the end of the world. If I were a welder I'd probably make furniture and try to sell it into the condos. You don't need to be an engineer for that. I think you could be a union welder and still grow a pony tail and get a little artsy on the side.
Oct. 14, 2013, 12:26 am
Ethan from Park Slope says:
The hipsters and bohemians presume the virtue of the arts. The locals presume the virtue of Mother Brooklyn. Neither can be presumed entirely virtuous.
Oct. 14, 2013, 3:50 am
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
Many of us locals love, honor and cherish the arts. That does not mean an entire generation are artists just by self appointment. an engineer does not a welder make nor does a degree in the arts make one an artist. I dabble, I have been published, but I do not make my living as an artist. I am truly concerned as to what will happen to the self esteem generation when they are financially left behind. Too much Cat in the Hat the sun is out lets play, play, play what happens when it's a cloudy day?
Oct. 14, 2013, 6:16 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
If you don't mind my asking, what sort of arts do you dabble in? Can you provide us with a link to your published art? I would sincerely like to know. Of course this is just one man's curiosity.
Oct. 14, 2013, 3:04 pm
Ethan from Park Slope says:
Yay Swampy. I have severe reservations about the self-appointment of "the arts" in Brooklyn over the past 30 years. That is, since "the arts" became a component of gentrification in Brooklyn, rather than a general idea that of course we all revere, honor, and cherish.

The reality is that only a tiny fraction of the thousands who flock to Brooklyn to be artists, will be successful. And it doesn't even have to do with talent. Even if they were all geniuses, which obviously are all are not, the market could still only absorb a small number as professional artists. But a much larger number of aspirants to the arts will become designers, technicians, or craftspeople in various allied fields. Most hipsters will have to go into trades if they don't want to be left behind. In fact, this is what most of them do.
Oct. 14, 2013, 5:04 pm
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
I believe true art will always find it's audience. This was always true but in this day of instant access to any place on earth it is more true than ever. Great artists, writers, musicians, poets, painters will always be discovered if they want to be. I'm talking of the truly great. They will be found. Would nay of these artists be any more talented if the moved to Brooklyn? Probably not. So why do people think moving to Brooklyn will make the great artists? It doesn't and it won't. Setting up a Potemkin Village with the bohemian trappings of an artist colony will not simply grant people talent. Can't these artists not be great any place but Brooklyn? Jonathan Lethem would have been a published writer no matter where he was born.
Oct. 14, 2013, 7:38 pm
Ethan from Park Slope says:
They want to be here because of the scene and the stimulation. That's always been the case in the arts. Big cities have always been a magnet for artists. A lot of people don't even much care if they're any good, they just want to be in the dialogue for the thrill of it. That was true of the warehouse movement in Williamsburg in the 90s. A lot of people don't believe that art should be a unique object with enduring value. They believe it is a lifestyle only, and that it exists for the moment only. And that's an idea that's been in heavy circulation for nearly a hundred years, it's not just some hipster trend.
Oct. 14, 2013, 8:27 pm
Ethan from Park Slope says:
I believe the avant-garde of the 20th century ... morphed into a tool for gentrification. It was the dream of the old avant-garde to effect real change in daily life. Art would become a means of social revolution. This actually happened, but not the way anyone wanted or expected it to happen. That whole branch of the arts that was associated with avant-garde practice and mythology, became associated with the transformation of working class neighborhoods into bourgeoise neighborhoods, all over the world. So when Swampy and diehipster rant about how hipsters and bohemians are pretenders, not "real artists," they are, to borrow a phrase from science, "not even wrong."
Oct. 15, 2013, 10:59 am
Ethan from Park Slope says:
You can stack bricks on the floor and call it art. You can smear yourself with melted chocolate and call it art. And you can gentrify a neighborhood and call it art. This is the ideological pickle we have come to in the hundred years since Duchamp turned the term "art" on its ear.
Oct. 15, 2013, 11:06 am
Jonathan from Brownstone Brooklyn says:
Ethan, you should be the dean of 3rd Ward. You'd be a natural. The hustle has changed a little since your day, but you could brush up on your moves and get back on the stroll again. Pop that little government feedbag around your neck, and take this hobbyist craze to the next level!
Oct. 15, 2013, 3:12 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
dude, I have my business in the Brooklyn art world, been at it for 30 years, and I'm still in the game.
Oct. 18, 2013, 2:36 pm
Ethan Pettit from Park Slope says:
You can put on the Rocky soundtrack now.
Oct. 18, 2013, 2:37 pm
Jonathan from Brownstone Brooklyn says:
Thank you for playing.
Oct. 24, 2013, 1:09 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.