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Bed-Stuy Says Goodbye To A Three Decade Old Artist Haven As Gentrification Takes Hold

Despite the loss of more artist housing in Bed-Stuy, other similar, larger buildings are thriving.

By Jeff Vasishta March 20, 2017

In a perfect world New York’s developers, should consider taking a chunk of their sizable fortunes to promote the careers of the painters, performers and writers who have allowed them to make the money they have. The residents at 35 Claver Place in Bed-Stuy, a brick building which has been a special work-live studio for local artists for the past 32 years, but is now being sold for $14.2 million, would surely appreciate it.

The property, which has 13 residential units and two commercial ones is being sold to developer Cheskie Weisz’s CW Realty, with all the tenant’s leases having expired. It’s an all too familiar story. The cycle of gentrification is dependent on artists— or pioneers as they are often referred to — moving into war torn neighborhoods, usually minority inhabited, and signaling to other, less adventurous souls, that a neighborhood is safe for them to move to as well. When a tipping point is reached, the developers then move in and build properties that are not affordable for the people living there. Artists and minorities alike, then vacate en masse.

Related: The Most Expensive Brownstone In Bed-Stuy Is On The Market for $3.25 Million

Although condos are now becoming popular in Bed-Stuy, brokers for the deal, Marcus and Millichap told Bisnow LLC that the owners plan to keep the property as a rental. For many it marks the end of an era. Sellers Anthony Chamberlin and Gina Inverso created the artists’ space out of a former warehouse in 1985. Now artists are forced to move further out of Brooklyn to pursue their craft.

“Sunset Park and Bushwick have large industrial buildings, and those are probably the last places for artists to go. Ridgewood is now all houses,” said a creative producer and product designer who lived on the fourth floor of the building, Teresa Herrmann. “Art is a difficult field when you also need business training. That is what you need to be successful; and a cultural following.”

The commercial spaces in the building were used to host expositions, music events and open houses showcasing the artists’ work.

The Claver Pace property is, of course, not the only artist housing in New York City. Probably the best known is Wesbeth Artists’ Housing, a complex of 13 buildings (formerly the site of Bell Laboratories, 1868-1966) which opened in 1970. It contains 384 live-work spaces for artists of all disciplines and their families. On October 25, 2011, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously designated Westbeth Artists Housing a New York City landmark. which means developers cannot buy it and remodel. Westbeth also contains large and small commercial spaces, performance and rehearsal spaces and artists studios.

Related: Brooklyn Brokers’ Turf Wars Get Vicious As Competition Increases

Other such buildings include the recently revamped El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 which, at a cost of $52 million, has transformed an abandoned public school building in East Harlem into an arts facility with 89 units of affordable live/work housing for artists and their families and 10,000 square feet of complementary space for arts organizations.

Not to be outdone, Harlem is opening affordable housing for musicians at 125th St across from the world-famous Apollo Theater. Further north the Bronx Heritage Music Center is coming to Melrose Commons for elderly Bronx based musicians. Up to 45 units in the Bronx Commons complex developed by the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation — or WHEDco — is being set aside for the project.

“We see the elder artist as being so extremely vulnerable,” WHEDco’s Julia Roberts told DNA Info, noting that the organization hopes to get the go-ahead from the city to target elderly local musicians especially as South Bronx real estate is on the rise.

“A lot of them are in poor health and have a hard time earning any income,” she said. “We really would like to preserve their music, their legacy, and help them continue to work as long as they can, so they can continue to have influence on younger generations.”

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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