Secret Mansion was a DIY space in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn where, for about two years, they had shows and parties like a 2017 Mardi Gras blowout that featured "3 floors of partying, with DJ's, live music, hurricane punch, hula hoop dancers, heated balcony, backyard fire pit, free-play pinball, body painting, and beads, Beads BEADS!" Bands played there too. As you can see in the above picture, there were guitars hung as decorations.
According to an article on Windsor Terrace Patch by Kathleen Culliton, Secret Mansion was run by Robin French (who is in a band called South Second whose bio includes a bit about a previous DIY space Robin ran in his home called "Brooklyn's Backyard"). Robin had tenants living in the house's basement who did work for the space in exchange for reduced rent. (Patch also points out that French was running an Airbnb operation with multiple "pods" out of the space and called tenants "indentured servants.") Some of those tenants have filed a complaint against French for illegally kicking them out and harassment.
This all came to a head on September 12 when one of those tenants, 21-year-old college student Kay Quesada, was allegedly kicked out of the space for -- among other things -- refusing to do dishes. French called 911 saying Quesada had armed herself with a knife and refused to leave. From the Patch article:
French said he believed Quesada was a threat to herself, so at about 8:50 p.m., 10 NYPD cars and two ambulances arrived outside the Secret Mansion, according to police and Henry, who had gathered a small group of protesters outside.
"This is not a psychotic episode," Henry said he told the cops. "No one is wielding any knife. There was violence toward her in the house."
The cops walked past him and entered the house. Minutes later, they returned with Quesada.
Quesada had attempted to explain that her landlord was trying to evict her and asked police to look at surveillance video she believed could prove she'd never touched a knife.
But she said the emergency responders were cynical and French declined to share the video. Eventually she gave in and left the Secret Mansion with police.
Josh Einhorn, who owned the building until it was foreclosed upon in June, said he had been unaware it was being used as a venue until he returned from Las Vegas in fall of 2017 to do requested repairs:
Einhorn was stunned to discover French and his girlfriend had built a roof deck, a soundproof recording studio, a backyard bar and installed bunk beds in the house, the building owner told Patch.
"This building I rented to two people he was using as an army barracks," Einhorn said. "I said, 'You're running an operation. I'm not fixing nothing.'"
An exasperated Einhorn returned to Las Vegas, hoping French would do as he asked and get rid of the bunk beds. He held onto the idea that French had everything under control.
It is unclear when Secret Mansion stopped having shows, but according to Patch, there were complaints and NYC Department of Buildings inspectors caught on to the parties by spring.
The news reports started coming out the other day but it was anti-gentrification activists who first became aware of the eviction and decided to do something about it. From a post on a Facebook page titled "BEFORE IT'S GONE //TAKE IT BACK" which is associated with the group Equality for Flatbush:
E4F plans to mount a legal and community campaign against Robin French and the NYPD. We are asking the community to:
Tweet at @Airbnb and say PERMANENTLY BAN ! PEAnti-Black Racist Gentrifier #RobinFrench RMANENTLY SHUT DOWN the MOTEL at #846McDonaldAvenue ! NO PROFITS for RACISTS!
Call White Gentrifier Robin French and let him know calling the police on a Black woman to illegally evict her was a BIG MISTAKE ! Tell him his RACIST SEXIST BEHAVIOR will NOT BE TOLERATED IN BROOKLYN :
The full Facebook post is HERE.
There's a whole lot more to this story which you can read at Patch, and you can watch a Channel 11 news report from September 21 on it, and see a few Instagram and Facebook videos filmed at Secret Mansion, below.