Westbeth Artists Housing, NYC HPD and CPC Break Ground on $40 Million Resiliency Project

New York Real Estate Journal
October 03, 2017

Manhattan, NY Flood resiliency in New York City took a big step forward as a $40 million resiliency project broke ground in the West Village.

Westbeth Artists Housing, the Greenwich Village “home to the arts,” and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the Community Preservation Corp. (CPC) began construction on a project to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy and to fortify Westbeth for future natural disasters.

Westbeth provides artists affordable live and work space at its historic site at the former Bell Laboratories campus in the West Village, on the corner of Bethune and West Sts. 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 Co. and the New School University’s graduate theater department.

Hurricane Sandy, the worst natural disaster in the city’s history, ravaged Westbeth in 2012, along with much of the rest of the city and coastal New Jersey. Seawater 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 has made major strides in recovering from the storm, it still needs significant improvements to withstand the inevitable floods and power outages of the future.

The Build it Back project will make those critically needed improvements to Westbeth, including:

  • Raising boilers above flood level to ensure it does not lose heat and hot water in a flood;
  • 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
  • Removing lead paint and asbestos from most of the basement and outside surfaces as a preliminary step in the construction process

“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,” said 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.”

Funding for the project comes from federal Community Development Block Grant -Disaster Recovery funds, administered by the HPD Multifamily Storm Recovery and Resiliency Program. HPD oversees the expenditures of those funds, as well as the construction monitoring, to ensure the project progresses as planned and meets both the relevant federal guidelines and city requirements.

“HPD’s Multifamily Storm Recovery Program shows that the City is not just committed to rebuilding, but also creating a more resilient infrastructure that will leave residents feeling secure in their homes,” said Housing and Preservation Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “HPD is proud to have provided this critical assistance and will continue to work alongside city residents to strengthen our communities.”

Following Sandy, HPD designated CPC to administer a portion of the city’s disaster recovery funding under the Build it Back Multifamily Program. The funding was used to make critical repairs to restore what was lost, as well as to implement resiliency features that will better allow the properties to withstand the fallout of future storms. CPC administered a total of $33 million in disaster recovery funding to 106 multifamily buildings across all five boroughs. In addition, CPC provided critical support to Westbeth during the application process, as well as coordinating engineers, architects and construction professionals, and helping Westbeth assemble the necessary documentation to push this complex recovery project across the funding finishing line.

“The impact of Sandy upended the lives of thousands of people and forever changed how we think about storm recovery and resilience. It also proved again, that New Yorkers pull together to help those most in need during our darkest times. 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. 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,” said CPC’s President and CEO Rafael Cestero.