Yesterday, without informing the residents of the Chelsea Hotel or the Chelsea neighborhood, the Landmarks Preservation Committee rammed through their approval of a massive rooftop addition to the Historic Hotel. This came as quite a shock to concerned residents, many of whom had attended a prior meeting of the LPC on April 10, in which the committee rejected Architect Gene Kaufman’s plan for the proposed addition, ordering him to resubmit a more realistic proposal. Obviously, Kaufman has not had time to competently redesign the addition, and in any event the Chelsea community has a legitimate right to review any proposed changes.
It’s hard to know where to start in enumerating the problems that this ill-conceived structure (with it’s obvious use as a nightclub) would create. The 1883 Chelsea Hotel has long defined the Chelsea neighborhood and the proposed addition pays no attention whatsoever to historic context. What appears in “Holiday Inn” Kaufman’s renderings as a two-story corrugated tin building resembling an airport hanger, will be visible from the street, and it will destroy the historic gardens and community garden designed as an integrate part of the hotel by architect Philip Hubert. Light and air to artists’ studios on the top floor – part of the original design – will be severely compromised, if not eliminated entirely. Noise and vibrations from the club will plague both Hotel residents and residents of surrounding buildings.
Worst of all, what we found with the club in the basement – especially in its worse incarnation as Star Lounge – was that it was a magnet for vice. Club goers congregated in the lobby and the front of the hotel, and violence poured out of the club into the streets.
The LPC is a public agency charged with acting in the public interest. So why all the secrecy? Well, because Kaufman, the Chetrits, and the LPC all know that absolutely no one in the Chelsea Hotel or the Chelsea Community wants this club on the roof. The bottom line is, this is a community issue and the Chelsea community deserves better than to have this unprecedented nuisance shoved down its throat. We call on the LPC to revisit its improvident decision, and to schedule a proper, public meeting in which the final plans can be presented and subjected to legitimate community debate. -- Ed Hamilton