Westbeth: Like All Good Communes, Nobody Ever Wants to Leave

westbeth e1321975560253 Westbeth: Like All Good Communes, Nobody Ever Wants to Leave

Westbeth Artists' Residence (Photo from Facebook)

Back in the 1970, a utopia was born in the far West Village. Forget bodies in the sand and tropical drinks melting in your hands, this was a perfectly New York creation, conceived to help starving artists put a roof over their heads.

The Westbeth Artists’ Housing, a colony-esque complex at 55 Bethune Street, is comprised of 13 buildings which once housed Bell Laboratory’s research facilities.  While the dreamy days of federally subsidized artists housing seem to be long passed, Westbeth stands today, still home creative types in need of cheap digs. Recently declared a New York City landmark, the artists haven is clearly here to stay.

And so are the artists living there. As The Times tells it, nobody ever wants to leave Westbeth.

An official estimates that 40-50% of the original tenants still live there, having weathered the interim four decades in good company and relative serenity with their peers.

One resident explains that when he moved in, rent was $99 per month. While slightly steeper now, he still pays just $640 for his place. Sounding more and more appealing, you’re considering busting out your old watercolor set to get a foot in Westbeth’s door. Well good luck to you.

The waiting list has been closed for five years, and vacancies are rare. Tenants have to be recommended by people in their creative field — the arts, acting, writing — although subletting to nonartists has been known to occur.

Unless you have an in with one of the original Warhol muses, it looks like you’re going to be paying full price rent. But, like all good communes, Westbeth has regular cultural offerings for residents and nonresidents alike in the myriad performance spaces. Did we mention that it also houses the city’s first LGBT synagogue? L’chaim!

eknutsen@observer.com