Here’s an example of how the minority share holders and BD Hotel are capitalizing on the Chelsea's historical spaces. (Please note that some of the videos and photos are Not Safe for Work or for your children.)
Addled by glue fumes from a nearby cobbler, former Chelsea Hotel resident and Whitbread Prize Winner Joan Brady was forced to abandon work on her highfalutin novel, Cool Wind from the Future, and turn instead to a less demanding thriller, Hot Blast from the Past(The Times, 1/24/08). Actually, she calls it Bleedout.And yes, the title does make the book sound rather outhouse-worthy.But the real story is that Joan won 115,000 pounds from the cobbler, a factory called Conker, for compromising her intellectual powers!And this despite the fact that Bleedout sold 10,000 copies. Which makes me wonder, where’s the monetary damage?If her impairment continues she’ll probably make more money writing thrillers than she would have with the highbrow stuff.She should have told them to gas her a bit more, and then maybe she could have landed a real job, like used car salesman or shoe factory owner, and then she would really be pulling in the bucks. Or maybe she could become a lawyer.Despite getting Joan a decent settlement, the lawyers in England must have been sniffing the fumes themselves, since they only made 30,000 pounds for themselves.I just read an account of a woman who sued Bed Bath and Beyond for misstating the thread count on its sheets, and while she only got $1500 or so, the lawyers collected over $250,000!If those English lawyers (what do they call themselves, barristers, solicitors, something highfalutin like that?) had any sense, they’d all move to America. And what about her son?The poor guy wrote a book ass-backwards! (Stuart, a Life Backwards, by Alexander Masters, who also stayed at the Chelsea for a time.)What’s he been sniffing?Who’s he going to sue? Actually, all kidding aside, The Times seems to be poking a bit of fun at Joan and trivializing her claim—at least to some extent--which is that she suffered nerve damage as a result of the fumes.She seems to have had plenty of evidence too, since she had to go up against her town’s District Council as well, which took the side of the cobbler.The real shame is that she had to waste her time and talent going after these scumbags, and now she even had to move for fear that they would retaliate against her. Her struggle reminds me of what we’re going through in New York with the developers who are wrecking the city and throwing people out in the street.It’s the same thing: people apparently devoid of shame or conscience who will do or say anything for money.The council’s health department inspector apparently denied being able to smell the fumes, and then lied and said no test was available.And listen to this pathetic appeal from one of the factory’s co-owners:“My two children worked at the factory for six years each.There’s no way we would have subjected ourselves, let alone our children, to toxic fumes.” Gee, maybe it was the elves who work in the factory at night who released the fumes.Silly cobblers, go make a boy out of wood. -- Ed Hamilton
According to Joe Ambrose, his book, "Chelsea Hotel Manhattan" includes "...abstract musings on what brought me to nyc and the hotel of which the piece in the video is one. Three very important people in my life died in the 12 months before I went there, and a very important relationship was also terminated on me. So that's why i was down in the depths of the deep blue sea."
In March 2006 I came to New York for the first time to audition to Juilliard. I was finishing my music undergrad in Sweden, where I’m from. I booked tickets to stay in NY for a week. The first two nights I stayed at the worst place imaginable that I had booked from Sweden, not realizing what “really cheap” in New York usually translates to. As I realized that, I went down to Chelsea Hotel that I had read about and found Mr. Bard behind the front desk. I introduced myself and asked for a room, he said “no problem” and gave me the price of $ 220/night. I was sad to say that it was a little more than I could afford which I told him upon which he asked how much I could afford. “What about half?” “No problem”. Those five nights were among the most memorable in my life, and the best conceivable introduction to the New York that I (on day three) fell in love with. The atmosphere had me mesmerized and I practiced better than ever. I tried to repay Mr. Bard for his generosity by playing in the lobby, but was forced to quit by some employee since people started to give me money.
I was accepted into Juilliard and I began my studies there the following fall and I’m graduating this spring. Many times I’ve walked by, not daring to go inside since I have no business there, but still longing to feel that certain smell, to see the wonderful architecture and to experience that vibe again. New York is now my home, hopefully for a long time if money allows.
Here's a rumor that we've heard: "Today apparently employees of the hotel came in to get their checks and they weren't signed so no one got paid. Management didn't call to tell people, so people came from the bronx, queens, and brooklyn to find that their checks weren't ready. Major foul on the part of BD. Apparently it's a new thing that Bernstein himself is supposed to sign the checks, but he's out of town until Monday."
Surely someone else can sign the checks. That's just wrong to not pay people on time!
Hey, are these kids making fun of us?How dare they?!Ah, they’re just having fun, and the real shame is that young artists like this can’t move in here anymore.We need people like this who understand what the Chelsea is about, even if they don’t take it all that seriously – especially if they don’t.Otherwise we’re just a bunch of Bohemian has-beens growing ever older as we stew in our own juices.Stanley, to his eternal credit understood this better than anyone: you can’t have Bohemia without the young.A large part of the vibrancy of the Hotel went out the door when Stanley left. Ellen Francis, the organizer of Art Night writes: "The afternoon of the Art Party I got in a somewhat stern, but professional disagreement with the new owner over why I refused to be put in a newly renovated suite." Nobody wants the newly renovated suites. People who come here want an old time hotel.
It's a video of a monthly art night organized by Ellen Francis. On Jan. 17th it was held in room 822. Artists who attended include Kendra Grant Malone (poet/writer) Jake Sinclair (The Films - warner music), Ben Dickinson (music video director) Lennox (smuggler films producer), Emily Anderson (american craft magazine) Lauren Flax (iheartcomix records), Julian Gilbert (photographer / misshapes), Angie Sullivan (illustrator-domino records), Johnny D. (jonny lives)& Uptown (painter/rock n renew) Danzie (dj) and myself (fuse tv head of print/ all around art person).
I wish I may, I wish I might. . . As reported in a recent New York Observer article (Max Abelson, 1/28), our dark mistress Marlene Krauss seems to have forgotten her roots and decided to put on airs (heirs?), casting herself as an heiress to the vast Chelsea Hotel fortune.In case you don’t know the story, her father was a plumber who worked with Stanley’s father and put up some of the money to buy the hotel in 1945.So, well, gee, technically. . . Marlene seems to have forgotten her treasured Harvard MBA as well.Maybe her PR campaign to cast herself as a Master of the Universe has run its course and now she’s going for a softer image, sort of a spoiled, rich layabout--“let them eat cake” and all.Surely no one will bite (or chop) her head off for that.
The Observer article, nominally about Marlene buying a new apartment, is definitely worth a peek, as it makes Marlene sound about as bright as Paris Hilton.What will you do in your new solarium, Marlene?“I’m planning to grow, like, organic vegetables up there.”What’s your favorite color, Marlene?
“. . .light greenish, it’s used a lot in, like, Japanese clay and stuff.”Forget the Fairy Godmother, bring on the Wizard!Somebody needs a brain!
Well, I don’t know about you, but I had more respect for the old Marlene--you know, the one who made a fortune selling baby monitors that broadcast brainwashing signals from outer space.Why don’t you just live in the Chelsea, Marlene?“Um, just because, you know, the apartments really weren’t big enough for me and my family.”Come on, Marlene, it’s a big building.You can have a whole floor.No, two floors.Throw those starving artists out in the street!
But it’s gratifying to know that if we work really hard here at the Chelsea we may someday rise to meet Marlene’s exacting standards: “It’s getting to look really nice.We’re fixing it up.I think it’s being run really, really well; it looks cleaner.”[Reality Check: they are not fixing the Chelsea up.The only thing BD “fixed” was the Grand Ballroom, partitioning it for office space—for which they received a $250 fine from the DOB for work done without a permit--and now they are tearing the partitions out.]I think Stanley Bard put it best when he said, "Since when are we all dirty around here?" -- Ed Hamilton
The good news just keeps getting better.It has come to our attention that our intrepid Director of Operations, Glennon Travis, unable to resist the siren song of Internet social communities, is now on facebook.In case you’ve forgotten, Glennon received a bit of good natured ribbing for his incredibly silly Myspace page, which he eventually had enough sense to take down, as it was an embarrassment both to himself and to the Chelsea Hotel.We trust that, for his latest online venture, he has dropped his “St. Louis beach bum and hip hotel junky” persona (or whatever the hell it was) for something a bit more dignified—or at least comprehensible.(“Money-grubbing slumlord” would give him something noble to aspire to, though “swashbuckling patron of the arts” would be better from a PR standpoint.)We can't bare to look at his profile since we don't want that Warren Zevon song stuck in our head for weeks. I’m sure one of our readers will send it to us eventually, in which case (baring the unlikely event that we have something important to worry about) we will generously share it with the Chelsea community.
A reader writes: "Hey just read your most current blog post and thought I'd send some photos I took of the firefighters Friday night. I had just returned from an evening exploring the east Village when I saw all the fire engines outside the hotel. The first thing that popped into my head was, 'Wow, this is just like Ed's story.'
Also-- strangely enough-- I was on the east elevator with the Jamaican maid and bellhop (sorry don't know their names) when it got stuck between the 1st and 2nd floors. We pried the door open and got out before we got seriously stuck. It was still out of order when I checked out. Seems like the hotel was flexing its muscles this weekend."
Things started off with a bang Friday evening as dozens of firefighters tromped through the lobby to battle what turned out to be a false alarm on one of the floors above.Sid’s ghost was unusually active stopping the elevator on the first floor to get on or off with some regularity.There was another ghost sighting as well by a young visitor who we hope will write in soon and give us all of the details.To top it all off, there was a film crew shooting a “soft core porn TV show” (their words not ours).And only one elevator was working for most of the weekend. We’ve got a video of Friday night’s mayhem courtesy of a geeky tourist which should be online soon.So check back. Correction -- the geeky tourist now reports that he deleted the video. Oh well.
Stanley has a long history of renting this place out to film crews, but now it seems we really are a sound-stage. Check out the new “production” section on the hotel’s official web site. Hard to believe BD is touting our “distinctive rooms and striking architecture” since they were all set to gut the place before the media firestorm torched their little party. They also make the “on-site engineering team” sound like film technicians or something. And of course the section fails to mention the real talent: there are actors, writers, hair-dressers and wardrobe specialists in residence, and even a director and a producer or two if you left yours back in Hollywood. Finally, anyone who’s read my book knows all about the special “craft services” tables permanently set up on the halls of most floors. Ed Hamilton
"I stayed at Chelsea a few years back and while planning to come back for a quick visit, i found out about the horrors.Not much i can do from Sweden, but at least i can support you with something to print up. Know that you have friends you don´t know." Eskil Eskil, we suggest that you do what others have done over the past few months and turn your outrage into a tee-shirt or a button to wear during your visit. Or, fly a banner from your balcony.
As if the hostile takeover of the Chelsea weren’t bad enough, now developers are going after another monument of the counterculture, this time the birthplace of Hip-Hop, 1520 Sedgwick Ave. on the outskirts of the Bronx, where D.J. Kool Herc spun records back in the early 70s.(NYT, Cityrooms Blog, "Tenants Might Buy Birthplace of HipHop" by Jennifer 8. Lee)Though not quite of the Chelsea’s significance, the building is still a monument to a part of New York’s life and legacy that’s being swept under the carpet for the sake of the almighty dollar.It’s also an outpost of affordable housing in a city that’s increasingly becoming merely a shopping mall for the super rich.
There are some other parallels to the Chelsea as well.The building is being bought by real estate mogul Mark Karasick for a reported $14 million, which is well beyond the $5-$6 million that housing advocates quoted in Lee’s article estimate it’s actually worth based on rental streams.It’s comparable to the mystery as to why BD Hotels, a company that buys hotels, would agree to simply manage the Chelsea, a no-win situation where all they accomplish is to make themselves look like scum for desecrating an iconic institution.
As Lee’s article makes clear, Karasick knows that there’s only two ways to make money off of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue: either to throw out the rent-stabilized tenants, or to flip the building for a profit.As for BD, the underlying motive is more difficult to fathom.They are charging less for rooms than Stanley was, and their claims of high occupancy are almost certainly exaggerated.We know of a few rooms that seem to have been warehoused for months after the long-term tenants vacated them.(Stanley would have cleaned them up and rented them in 24 hours, tops.)Add to that the huge increase in the size of the staff, and it’s hard to imagine that that this corporation is making more money than Stanley was.Probably BD is looking for some sort of eventual ownership role in the hotel.Are they trying to drive down the price by bankrupting the hotel?
Whatever the particulars, there does seem to be some sort of financial scheme afoot.Remember, Born and Drukier don’t care to put in a hard day’s work and pull down a regular salary.These guys are after the big bucks. – Ed Hamilton
This week’s Chelsea Now has articles on two huge new destruction/construction projects.But while reading the articles I couldn’t help noticing that neither of the projects seems to make any sense from anything but a development-at-all-costs perspective.In the first, the proposed new St. Vincent’s complex in Greenwich Village, two huge buildings will be torn down so that two even more monstrous skyscraper can be tossed up.But the real kicker is that, since they plan to make a large portion of the new buildings into condos for rich people, the hospital will actually wind up with less space!Though it wasn’t mentioned in the Chelsea Now article, I remember reading somewhere that one of their main concerns was to modernize their facilities, but surely it would cost a lot less to simply upgrade the old buildings.
It pisses me off that St. Vincent’s want to screw up the Village, but even worse is what Vornado wants to do to the Penn Station area, which involves tearing down Madison Square Garden and the Penn Hotel, and maybe even Macy’s, and altering the old Post Office in some ungodly way as yet to be determined.For one thing, everybody’s crying that the city needs more hotel rooms, to the point where landlords are converting their buildings into hotels illegally, and here developers are going to demolish a huge hotel, which, though it may not be as luxurious as it once was, is actually somewhat affordable.
But the most ridiculous part of the whole “New Penn Station” project is that it is being sold to the public as a way to redress the much-lamented demolition of the old Penn Station, which has been used as a rallying cry by preservationists for four decades now.Perhaps, in the end, we’ll be getting a new Penn Station to rival the old, but that’s rather like believing in Santa Claus, now isn’t it.(What we’ll most likely end up with are a bunch of non-descript glass towers.)So tell me once again how tearing down more iconic buildings is supposed to make us feel better about the loss of Penn Station?
Where development in this city is concerned, it’s full speed ahead, and logic and common sense be damned. -- Ed Hamilton
Jan. 14, 5:30 - 7:30 Opening reception for photographer Gary Schoichet 's exhibit "Infamous 5th Floor Men's Locker Room" at the former McBurney YMCA. Free, Wine & Cheese McBurney YMCA, 125 West 14th Street, NY NY
Jan. 23, 8:00 & 10:00 Jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin will perform songs from her recent CD release, "A Morning in Paris." The CD has been receiving great reviews. For the first time ever, Sathima's daughter, the hip hop artist Jean Grae will perform as a guest artist with her mother. $15.00 Sweet Rhythm, 88 Seventh Ave., (Between Grove & Bleecker) NY NY
Brendan At The Chelsea--a new play by Janet Behan uncovering the final days of Brendan Behan's stay at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. From the press release, "It’s Sixties New York, in that legendary bohemian bolt hole, The Chelsea Hotel. Arthur Miller is just across the hall, the sound of Ornette Coleman is drifting down from the penthouse and the symphony of 24th Street is rising up and in through the open window of Brendan Behan’s room… He’s broke, hung over and way past the delivery date of his latest book, the first line of which he has yet to write. He was told to stop drinking or he’d be dead in six months – that was two years ago…." Starring Adrian Dunbar. Directed by Adrian Dunbar and Rosalind Scanlon. Riverside Studios, London from 15 January 2008
The only historical fact listed on the Hotel Riverview’s web site is that the Titanic crew stayed there during the inquiry into that disaster (“detained” is how they phrase it, making it sound like the place was being used as a prison”). (The Chelsea Hotel housed some of the Titanic survivors as well.) But until just recently you could get a single room there for only $30.47 per night, plus hotel tax and a $5 key deposit.If you were willing to splurge you could get a room with a TV for $32.90.All that is set to end—along with, eventually, all semblance of affordable housing in Manhattan--now that hoteliers Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson have bought the place.So if you were thinking of moving there after you get kicked out of the Chelsea, think again, hapless Bohemian!The Riverview will be a boutique hotel as well!
(I can add a little bit more to the Riverview’s history.In addition to playing host to any number of penniless writers and artists, the Riverview has a less tenuous connection to the arts: it’s the former home of the Jane Street Theatre.I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch there, and also Eddie Izzard—a former Chelsea Hotel resident back in the 90s.)
This month’s Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art features an article on the painter and former Chelsea Hotel resident Ching Ho Cheng (January 2008, by Jonathan Goodman).Two of the pictures of Cheng’s work (The Cloud and Alchemical Process ) that appear in the issue were taken at the Chelsea. Some of the longer term residents of the Chelsea will certainly still remember Cheng.A friend of former Chelsea luminaries such as painter and good witch Vali Myers and poet and photographer Ira Cohen, Cheng traveled widely in Europe, but always returned to the Chelsea while in New York.Born in 1946, Cheng came with his family to New York at the age of five when they fled the communist revolution.He studied painting and sculpture at Cooper Union and had his first New York solo show at the Gloria Cortella Gallery.A fixture on the downtown arts scene of the 60s and 70s, Cheng was friendly with such stars as David Bowie, Lou Reed and the members of the Rolling Stones. As discussed in the Yishu article, Cheng had an eclectic style reflective of the wide open nature of the time in which he came of age.From his early psychedelic works, some perhaps drug-inspired, he progressed to gouache works of “painted light”, and then on to more abstract works involving techniques ofpurposely tearing and oxidizing paper to introduce notes of chance and spontaneity into his work.(Of particular note for fans of the Chelsea are Cheng’s series of gouache paintings, seemingly abstracts, that in reality depict various representations of the window frame in his apartment at the Chelsea Hotel.) Viewing himself as an outsider and a creative rebel, Cheng drew on Tibetan Mysticism and the art of ancient and aboriginal cultures.I’ll bet he had some pretty good conversations along these lines with Vali and Ira as well!
(Another interesting factoid is that Cheng helped underground filmmaker Rosa Von Praunheim shoot his film Tally Brown, New York, about Warhol superstar Tally Brown here at the Chelsea.I was unaware of the Chelsea connection of this brilliant, unorthodox filmmaker.) Sadly, at the height of his creative powers, Cheng died in 1989.His work lives on, however, as does his memory in the collective consciousness of the Chelsea.
[Thanks to Cheng’s sister, Sybao Cheng-Wilson, for providing us with a copy of the Yishu article, as well as further details about this remarkable Chelsea Hotel artist.Most of the details about Cheng’s art are pulled from Goodman’s article.To learn more about Ching Ho Cheng and his life and art check out his website at www.chinghocheng.com. Copies of Yishu are available at the Asia Society.]
I called someone living at the hotel yesterday and was put on hold.In the past, when they put you on hold you would get this nice pleasant voice telling you all about the glorious history of the Chelsea Hotel, “one of the most famous hotels in the world,” and its past residents and their contributions to the arts.Yesterday it was a bad recording of The Velvet Underground.Well, at least they have something to do with the Chelsea, as Nico lived here.But I’m sure once Lou Reed hears about this he’ll sue the hotel for using his music without permission, and then we’ll just get some canned, generic muzak crap like they have at the Pod Hotel.What’s wrong with telling people about the hotel.We’ve got an impressive history, and people who are calling might want to know about it.Hell, it might even make them want to stay here.I can see that BD is hell bent on erasing all traces of the Chelsea’s individuality and turning it into a sterile, corporate chain hotel, but that doesn’t even make good business sense. -- Ed Hamilton
Concerned parents should check out this article about where to find a child friendly hotel. One place you can forget about is the Chelsea where we have a anti-child policy in place barring unsupervised kids from the lobby. It's a shame because the Chelsea Hotel in the old days was welcoming to all age ranges. Animal lovers too should forget about this place. We used to have a dog named Gingy who would ride the elevators between floors and cats that would climb the fire escape and come in to visit you in your room, but alas those days are gone. Animals lovers should look somewhere else when scheduling their trip to New York City.
A tribute to our favorite tackle shop, Capitol—an early casualty in the war between the Chelsea Hotel and the BD usurpers—appears in last Sunday’s issue of The Independent.Thanks to Keith Elliott for keeping the issue in the news, and for pointing out that Capitol’s customers might just as well include tattooed weirdoes and 6-feet women—no doubt from the Chelsea—as actual anglers.(The weirdest was no doubt the Sultan of Brunei—I wonder if he stopped in to ask Stanley about the rates.)I’m also glad to see that he notes that Capitol has successfully relocated—to a spot near Macy’s at 132 West 36 Street>—hopefully putting this whole distasteful Chelsea nonsense behind them.Good for them.Too bad the rest of us can’t do the same.
Elliot does make a couple of mistakes, however.For one, he says that the acupuncture shop, as well as other unnamed shops, were forced out.Actually, the acupuncture shop is still there; the only two storefronts that are vacant were both part of Capitol, which is thus far the only store that has actually been forced out.(We have heard plenty of rumors, however, as to what BD plans for the other spaces—acupuncture, guitar and tattoo parlors don’t seem to figure in their plans.But we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.) -- Ed Hamilton
A recent issue of the Village Voice highlights the matter of illegal hotel conversion, whereby landlords clandestinely transform apartment buildings filled with long term tenants into transient hotels for businessmen. This was an issue brought into the public consciousness by Chris Lombardi of Chelsea Now in an ongoing series about such buildings as the Execu-stay on 24th Street in Chelsea. Now that the Voice has finally jumped on the bandwagon—and it’s about time, really--maybe we can get some legislation to stop this abuse. But the Voice article (“Motel Sucks” by Maria Luisa Tucker, 12/26/07) is a good piece of journalism, and I just want to point out a couple of things that it demonstrates.
Market Rate Tenants at Risk
The first is that, in this run-away real estate boom, market rate tenants are at risk as well.People who are paying market rate for their apartments tend to resent those of us who are “lucky” enough to have rent-stabilized apartments (actually many of us originally moved into what were at the time depressed neighborhoods, taking apartments that might otherwise have stood empty), and to sneeringly tell us that if we can’t afford to live in the city we should just move out.Well, surprise: looks like you can’t afford it either.Landlords and developers don’t care about your community, even if you are paying top dollar: they are more interested in cashing in now.You are basically just a pain in the ass to them, always demanding heat, repairs, etc.And when the market goes south they can just bring in a whole new crop of market rate tenants.All tenants are in the same boat, and we need to set aside our differences if we are to survive the tide of destruction that’s washing over our city.
Landlords on the Dole
The second is that, there are ways to fight back—even if you’re a market rate tenant and think your fate rests with the whim of the landlord.The tenants at One bank Street found that their landlord had taken advantage of the city’s J-51 tax-abatement program, and hence was required to extend rent-stabilization protection to all tenants! Many of the landlords of these buildings have profited from such social programs designed to prop up the housing market when it was far less profitable.Of course now that the market is wildly profitable, landlords want to opt out of these programs as quickly as possible, trumpeting their inalienable property rights, the inviolability of the free market, blah blah blah, and acting like tenants are the ones who are taking handouts.But hey, my freeloading landlord friends, it turns out you were the ones on welfare.And now it’s time to pay the piper--and the piper is the public. -- Ed Hamilton
Here’s the new Hotel Chelsea business card.I guess it’s supposed to represent the sign on the façade of the building, but it really looks more like a tombstone to me. (The actual sign is of course not shaped like an oblisk.) It’s a fitting epitaph for the death of culture in New York.But after all this is only wishful thinking on the part of BD Hotels because we’re all still alive and kicking here at the Chelsea Hotel. It will take more than a poorly designed business card to finish us off.
Below is the old Hotel Chelsea business card, basic, but at least a bit classier than the new one.