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From OWS Posters
I saw this map on Facebook and shared it, commenting, "
I know I'll get some blowback here, I'm going to say this anyway: Own your studio. I don't mean make it your own. I mean: Buy it. Possess it legally. Have it in your name.
Of course this is easier said than done, but but when you think about the money you plow into a studio over the years--especially in New York City, you're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars--you realize this is an undertaking worth considering. Do the math. Since I can only work in numbers by 10, these are probably modest figures:
. $1000 a month for a year: $12,000
. For 10 years: $120,000. Now factor in rent increases every couple of years and the figure could be closer to $150,000
. For 50 years: Considering that your original $1000 rent will probably have doubled somewhere along the line, you'll pay close to a million dollars in rent during your life as a working artist
. Buy in a borough Yes, Henry, including Staten Island.
. Buy in New Jersey Known colloquially as "West West Chelsea," cities like Hoboken, Jersey City, Union and Weehawken are reachable by the Path train or the ferry. Prices are high even there, so consider West New York, Bergen and other towns a bit farther north. West New York, for instance, is only a few miles from Midtown, though the Hudson divides it from Manhattan. If there were a bridge across the river at 60th street, West New York would be about 2500 W. 60th. Plus the views of the Manhattan skyline are spectacular. (Yes, the Port Authority sucks, but buses leave frequently and you're across the river at your bus stop in 10 or 15 minutes. )
. Buy up the river in the Hudson Valley, far enough to be away from the hot real-estate zones but close enough to be reachable by Amtrak. It doesn't have to be Woodstock. Kingston, for instance, has a great arts community. I notice that more and more artists--OK, mid-career and established artists--are relocating here, having paid their dues in SoHo or Chelsea. Dealers and curators, too.
. Buy in Philadelphia A few years ago a friend bought a row house in West Philly for about $60,000. The modestly proportioned house, attached on both sides, has a parlor floor with living room and dining room, which are used as the painting studio, and a kitchen; the second floor's three bedrooms are used respectively for office, art storage and bedroom; the basement is for supply storage and canvas stretching. There's a closed-in front porch which serves as the living room, and a back yard, which becomes the summer living room. Oh, and there's parking right out front. Philadelphia is two hours from New York City and it has a lively arts scene of its own.
. Buy somewhere else and keep an apartment in Manhattan That's what I did a few years ago when the rent on my Union Square studio was going up to $2000 a month After looking extensively in New Jersey, I surprised myself by making an offer on a building in Massachusetts, just north of Boston. I bought a two-story former autobody shop for what I sold my 500-square-foot Chelsea apartment for. I now have a small place in Manhattan that serves me when I'm here, which is about half the month. Can you find other artists who have done the same thing who might share an apartment in town?
. Buy an apartment with an extra bedroom That's a classic strategy, but it will have to be one of the boroughs if you want that extra bedroom in New York City.
. Buy a small coop apartment and use it as a studio This is trickier, because you have to tell the coop board that you're going to live there, and nosy neighbors may wonder about the turpentine smell. One artist I know kept her apartment as a studio when her domestic arrangement changed (she moved into a new space with her new partner). The point is, be open to the possibility.
. Buy a multiple family house so that the second (or third) floors can provide rental income. But you'd better be handy, because ownership with tenants is a huge--let me say that again: huge--responsibility.
. Buy a small house with a garage Build a second floor studio; check the zoning first to make sure it's possible, or apply for a variance.
. Buy a space cooperatively with other artists Across the river, towns like Union and West New York, New Jersey, once proudly proclaimed themselves "the embroidery capital of the U.S." There were many mom-and-pop businesses, but when the industry computerized and went offshore, Mom and Pop were stuck with small buildings they could no longer afford. I'm sorry for their loss, but these buildings are perfect for artists' studio space.
. . . . Know that artists and old mills are everywhere, so your cooperative venture could be in a location where the rents are cheaper, even if you wish to retain your relationship to New York City: Upstate New York, New Jersey, or Western Massachusetts, or farther east in places like Fall River or Lowell, Mass., or Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Don't enter into a cooperative relationship without an attorney and a contract that spells out very clearly what the terms of your cooperative ownership are.
. Know that commercial spaces will cost you three or four times as much in property taxes and utilities so proceed carefully. You can work from home (assuming you don't sell retail out of the space), but you usually can't live in a commercially zoned space.
How Will you finance it?
I'm neither a real estate agent nor a banker, so you need professional advice here. But consider that interest rates have never been lower, and that both interest and capital expenses are deductible. It's also much easier, and less costly, to buy something outside of New York City. (Another thought: If being in near New York City is not a requirement, you may find that studio rent is so cheap--like $300 a month for 500 square feet--I'm not kidding!--you may decide to continue renting your studio space and buy a home instead.)
Midcareer artists: You are used to paying monthly rent, so you will be able to swing a mortgage. The trick is the down payment. I can't help you here except to remind you that you have spent a lifetime being resourceful. Keep your eye on the prize. Ask other artists how they did it, or how they're doing it. Again, it's easier to do this outside of New York City, where down payments are not 20 percent. The good news: You are probably not saddled with huge college loans since you went to school when tuition was significantly lower.
Emerging artists: You are probably going to have the harder time. If I were you, I'd take the money for grad school and use it for a down payment. Getting married? Screw the big wedding. Serve pasta for dinner, and request money as a gift. Use it to put a down payment on a space. Do you have to live in New York City? Many dealers want their artists to live locally, but I work with a dealer here who represents an artist from Kansas City and just made a studio vist there. So it depends on the dealer. What's the point of being a "New York artist" if you never get to be an artist in New York, i.e. juggling three part-time jobs with no benefits and then trying to unleash the creative flow in your studio while worrying about how you're going to pay your apartment rent, studio rent, framing costs or art shipper's bill. You could be doing that anywhere--a lot more easily and cheaply. Just make sure you have easy and regular access to what feeds you as an artist.
None of what I'm saying is without hurdles, but consider that if you're going to pay rent, it might as well be a mortgage. Having equity means that if you move in ten years, you will not have flushed ten years of rent down the john but will have something to rent or sell, thereby funding your move to the next phase of your professional life. And as a landlord, you will be far kinder to yourself than anyone else would ever be. Ownership comes with headaches, overhead, roof leaks, unexpected expenses, and the financial responsibility of a mortgage. But when you consider the long haul, it's an investment worth making.
Please weigh in. As always, anonymous comments are fine as long as they add to the discussion. If you want to post nasty or negative, you need to assume responsibility and post under your own name.
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