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Major Resiliency Project for Iconic Artists’ Housing Project Begins

Westbeth Artists Housing development in the West Village. Credit: Jack M. Kucy. The Westbeth Artists Housing development in the West Village provides affordable live and work space at the former Bell Laboratories campus. Credit: Jack M. Kucy.

NEW YORK CITY—Construction work has begun on a $40-million resiliency project at the Westbeth Artists Housing development in Greenwich Village to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The project, funded by the federal Community Development Block Grant -Disaster Recovery funds, administered by the city’s Housing Preservation and Development Multifamily Storm Recovery and Resiliency Program, is also geared at fortifying the Westbeth development from future natural disasters. The groundbreaking for the project was held last week.

Westbeth, founded in 1968, provides artists affordable live and work space at the former Bell Laboratories campus in the West Village, on the corner of Bethune and West streets. The campus contains 384 affordable homes as well as large and small commercial spaces rented to artists of all disciplines, including the Martha Graham Dance Company and the New School University’s graduate theater department.

The development suffered considerable damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when floodwaters poured into Westbeth’s basement, flooding the block-square building with nine feet of water. The storm knocked out the property’s electrical equipment, boilers, electronics, pumps and elevators. While Westbeth officials say the community has made major strides in recovering from the storm, it still requires significant improvements and measures to help the community withstand possible future floods and power outages.

“Westbeth remains committed to providing affordable homes and workspace for artists, and we are grateful to the New York City Build it Back program and HPD for providing financing for these necessary renovations,” says Patricia Jones, chair of the Westbeth Corp. board of directors. “Because the funds are provided by the federal and city governments, residents’ rents will be unaffected, enabling us to create a stronger, more sustainable and resilient Westbeth while maintaining affordability for artists.”

The Community Preservation Corp., which administers a portion of the city’s disaster recovery funding under the Build it Back Multifamily Program, provided support to Westbeth during the application process, such as coordinating engineers, architects and construction professionals, and helping Westbeth assemble the necessary documentation for its funding application, Westbeth officials note. The CPC administered a total of $33 million in disaster recovery funding to 106 multifamily buildings across all five boroughs.

“Working on the Build it Back portfolio was an opportunity to lend our unique expertise to our longtime partners in government, and also to bring relief to owners in need, to rebuild communities and return a sense of stability to the people who live there,” says CPC’s president and CEO Rafael E. Cestero. “As we continue our efforts here in New York, our thoughts go out to those people impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma who are embarking on their recovery and rebuilding process.”

Some of the improvements planned as part of the resiliency program include: raising boilers above flood level; upgrading cellar windows and critical doorways to prevent water from entering the cellar; installing a new emergency generator to run boilers, water pumps, elevators and stairwell lighting during emergencies; installing submersible domestic water pumps that will ensure water gets to all floors for drinking and toilets; installing new submersible sump pumps to aid in removing any water that might seep into the basement; preserving the historic preservation status, while repairing the structural integrity of the complex’s inner courtyard and rebuilding it to make it wheelchair-accessible; and the removal of lead paint and asbestos from most of the basement and outside surfaces as a preliminary step in the construction process.

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