How the Westbeth is faring in modern times

November 22, 2010 05:31PM

When the old Bell Laboratories at 55 Bethune Street were transformed into a housing complex for artists decades ago, the idea was a novel one known as “adaptive reuse,” and the complex became known as Westbeth, where rents were kept low by its non-profit foundation owners. Now, 40 years later, the place has changed, with lofts selling for almost for more than Westbeth’s entire annual rent roll. But not everything is different — admission is still open only to working artists, with three references. Studios at the 383-unit complex go for $650, one-bedrooms for $800, two-bedrooms for $950 and three-bedrooms for $1,100. There are modest surcharges added if a tenant is earning money, but rates fall back to the base level if someone’s finances are suffering. Next June, the Westbeth will pay off its mortgage, and residents may be affected. “Under our tax abatement, if we do not enter into another regulatory agreement, we must then enter rent stabilization,” said George Cominskie, president of the Westbeth Artists Residents’ Council, a tenants’ group. “It is better than having no protections, but there are serious concerns… For 40 years, our rents have been tied to income.” [NY Mag]