If New York is a city of competing utopias, each on a headlong collision course for the next, Bethune Street is the pared-down version-a compressed glimpse into a few grand experiments in urban living, their feverish beginnings and whimpering falters.
Take the former Bell Labs factory, converted in the 1960s into the world’s largest subsidized housing complex for artists. Westbeth’s artists pay a fraction of the rents of their increasingly well-moneyed neighbors. But as with any paradise, few want to leave: The community has considered hiring a social worker to address the needs of its aging population. And for artists not yet Social Security eligible, by the time they get in, they may be: The waiting list for admission is up to 10 years long.
Across the street, meanwhile, another vanquished factory made way for an entirely different brand of utopia. The Superior Ink luxury condos and flawlessly manicured Stepford townhouses, selling for millions, come equipped with Hudson River views and valet service for your bike.