Renovation has been ongoing on the east wing of the 7th floor for several months now, without much apparent progress, and there have been scattered attempts at renovation in other places around the building (including in the room next to ours). Notices have recently been placed by the elevators on all floors informing tenants that various work will commence this week, including: interior framing, steel bracing, electrical wiring, elevator shaft patching, and installation of concrete floors and plywood sub floors.
There’s been a lot of confusing and conflicting information about the scope of the renovation, but I’ve been looking at various documents, including the floor plans posted on each floor, task force minutes, DOB permits, and letters from various local politicians. Here’s what we know:
Demolition work is mostly concluded, with almost all of the unoccupied apartments gutted, though they’ll have to do a bit more in spots—including in rooms recently vacated—as they go along. Hopefully, they will take care not to spread asbestos dust around the hotel this time. They are required to perform asbestos abatement and use HEPA filters for all significant work.
Interior framing and steel bracing will be installed starting May 21, or as soon as the Chetrits get the necessary DOB permits. This will hold up the sheetrock which will cover the existing walls, leaving a space for electrical wires and plumbing pipes. They are also going to install heating and air conditioning (HVAC) shafts, and for this they will need to lower the ceilings in the hallways, presumably by installing a drop ceiling supported by the sheetrock walls. The glass globes that Stanley installed in 1997 will be torn out, as the plan is to install “strip lighting” in the new ceilings (sounds dreadful, I know). The “arch configuration” of the hallways will be maintained, if possible. A sprinkler system will be installed. The marble floor will be retained.
Stairwells and Elevators
The main staircase will not be altered. (At some point they may open it to the lobby as it was originally.) The two central elevators will also not be affected. According to the floor plans, the back staircase will be torn out and a new (apparently larger) staircase will be built in approximately the same location. It appears that the service elevator will also be replaced by a new one. And a brand new elevator will be installed on the east wing of the building. The Chetrits/Gene Kaufman had permits for this work with the DOB, but these appear to have been revoked for the time being.
Radiators will be torn out. Vents for HVAC will be installed leading from the pipes in the hallway into the vestibule of each apartment. Sprinklers, the pipes painted red, will be affixed to the ceiling. All apartments will get new double windows at some point. Unoccupied apartments are having the interior framing, steel bracing, and sheetrock installed to hide the new electrical wires and pipes. Occupied apartments will be assessed on a case by case basis to determine if they need new electrical wiring.
All rooms will have their own bathrooms, so the days of SRO rooms at the Chelsea are over. Most of the bathrooms in the unoccupied rooms were demolished, so they’ll need to construct new ones. Even Herbert Huncke, in 828, will get the bathroom he longed for and always bugged Stanley Bard about, albeit posthumously. As borne out by the floor plans, none of the new rooms will have kitchens.
DOB has already denied the plans for the permits for the structure on the roof, due to the hotel being overbuilt, and due to incomplete and inaccurate information on the permit applications so for now the scaffolding which was put up for LPC viewing will come down. However, according to Chetrit associate Michael Butler, all structures and gardens on the roof will be demolished anyway.
There seems to be a hold-up on some of the DOB permits. For instance, as mentioned, the permit for the elevator and new back staircase, initially granted, has now apparently been revoked. This could have something to do with the fact that Christine Quinn and several other local politicians sent DOB a letter requesting that they audit the permit applications. Another permit, this one for renovation of the rooms, has seemingly suffered the same fate. How this will affect the scope of the renovations remains to be seen.
One thing immediately obvious from the current floor plans is that the new configuration of the hotel will consist of a variety of rooms, large and small, much like the old hotel. Even some of the small corridors with their warrens of tiny rooms will remain, only now each one will have its own bathroom. All of which makes you wonder why they bothered with the gutting. Certainly the thin sheetrock walls will maximize floor space, but besides that, probably the Chetrits had a more extensive renovation planned originally, but have been unable to get the permits they needed. (They couldn’t get a permit for change of egress, and that may be why they have to retain the small rooms and eccentric configuration.) Well, the less architect Gene Kauffman is allowed to do, the better.