DocuDrama: Gathering of the Tribes Heads to Court

IMG_0003Ruth Spencer Steve Cannon, founder of Gathering of the Tribes.

Tribes is fighting back.

The landlord attempting to evict Gathering of the Tribes has no right to do so, and actually owes the founder of the quirky arts group at least $8,400, a new lawsuit alleges.

In December, Lorraine Zhang, the landlord of 285 East Third Street, served Steve Cannon, the blind poet, playwright and founder of Tribes with a notice that he must leave the building by Jan. 31.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in State Supreme Court and reprinted below, says that the notice is “invalid” and that “Cannon is entitled to remain as an occupant of the second floor of the premises subject to the terms of the agreement” that the pair signed when Mr. Cannon sold the building to Ms. Zhang in 2004.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Mr. Cannon paid Ms. Zhang $2,500 a month for over two years — $300 more than he owed. “Zhang accepted the full amount of $2,500 for each of these months and never notified Cannon, either orally or in writing, of his payments,” read the court documents, which note that Mr. Cannon is owed $8,400, plus interest.

In a phone interview, Mr. Cannon said, “She didn’t have the courtesy to call and say, ‘Steve, you overpaid me.'”

Ms. Zhang did not return a phone call, but in December she said that the regular gallery openings, parties and performances at Tribes irritated the other tenants and caused damage to the building.

It doesn’t appear the events will end due to the brewing legal showdown, either. Mr. Cannon said that the current exhibit, “Zero, Infinity and the Guides,” had been extended through Feb. 12. Five days later, a new exhibit, “Occupy Tribes Now” will feature art that “relates to housing and human rights issues,” according to the website. Sale of the works on display will go towards the gallery’s legal bills, according to the write-up. (Mr. Cannon said that his lawyer, Joseph Patella, is working pro bono.)

Gathering of the Tribes lawsuit