The Utrecht Art Supplies store across the street from the Chelsea Hotel is being gutted! I guess with the artists being evicted from the Chelsea, there's no one left to buy art supplies. Actually, not to worry, the sign on the art store's door says they'll be reopening on August 18. Maybe they're going to start selling mold test kits and HEPA filters in their new incarnation, as that's what the artists need now more than paint brushes.
The Chetrit gang has been in charge of the Chelsea Hotel for a year now. Despite dozens of law suits in Housing and Supreme court they have been less successful in evicting tenants than the previous Krauss/Elder regime. (Krauss & Elder picked off numerous tenants while preparing the building for sale.) They have, however, been much more successful in demolishing the interior of the historic hotel. (In part, this was because the Hotel was under a full Stop Work Order for two years under Krauss/Elder. Currently the basement remains under a SWO because of illegal work done during the Krauss/Elder era.) Up until this point they haven't had much success in reconstructing the rooms. (It's hard to tell whether they are really attempting to finish construction or if it is part of their plan to annoy us as long as possible so we will want to leave.) In general, our day-to-day plagues include: dust, mold, loss of electricity, leaks, floods, jackhammers, filty floors, lack of elevator service, lack of art and halls without walls.
Yesterday, the floods arrived again at the Chelsea Hotel. A pipe burst sending water throughout the 10th and 9th floors of the building. Some tenant's apartments were damaged by the water. The picture below shows the water flowing from a light fixture on the 10th floor. Meanwhile, by our count, a quarter of the Chelsea Hotel's tenants continue to fight evictions in Housing and Supreme Court.
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.
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.
The enclosed phone booths in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel represent some of the last remaining booths in the city. Not only are they historic, they are cool, and serve a useful purpose. Chelsea Dynasty has announced that the two enclosed phone booths in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel will be removed sometime in the next two months when the construction begins on the first floor. Management indicated that the booths will be saved as historic artifacts and perhaps reinstalled at some future time. We certainly hope that this is the case. No mention of what will happen to the mobile which hangs above the booths. The removal of the booths presents a problem for the tenants who use the phones on a regular basis. One solution proposed by management is to provide low-cost outward bound calls from the in-room house phones for individuals who depend upon the phones located in the lobby.
Legends has obtained a copy of the consent order in the tenants’ association’s lawsuit against the Chetrits (Judith Childs, et. al. vs. Chelsea Dynasty LLC, et. al. and NYC Department of Housing and Preservation). The Tenants’ Association represents approximately 35 of the 98 tenants remaining in the building, and approximately 31 of the 69 remaining units. The tenants association sued, basically, to force the Chetrits to remediate the mold and other hazardous conditions in their apartments (some of which resulted from the recent demolition) and to perform any further construction in accordance with the law (this later mainly focused on the spread of dust). In the settlement, the hotel agreed to various conditions, including:
-the hotel must correct all listed housing violations (including mold, lead paint, fire code, and air shaft) in petitioners apartments and public areas, immediately hazardous violations by June 12, 2012, and hazardous and non-hazardous violations by June 30, 2012
-if the hotel doesn’t correct the violations on time, they can be fined $50-$150 per violation for the immediately hazardous violations, plus $125 per day per violation. (There are correspondingly lesser penalties for the lesser violations)
-mold remediation in petitioners apartments and public areas must be done in accordance with Department of Health guidelines, and must be completed by June 30, 2012
-the hotel must take all necessary steps to eliminate the sources of water leaks into the hotel
-wood platforms and debris must be removed from air shafts by July 15, 2012. Openings in the air shafts must be closed or have ventilation as per code
-an asbestos inspection must be performed, and damaged asbestos insulation must be removed by an asbestos contractor
Demolition and Construction
-plastic sheeting must be used to isolate and enclose demolition areas, and HEPA vacuums and air scrubbers must be used to keep the dust down. Surfaces in work areas must be properly cleaned, the dust removed. Debris must be taken out of the building in sealed containers
-if dust enters the common areas or apartments, the hotel must clean it up immediately (though they don’t have to stop work). HEPA air cleaners must be provided for children and people with respiratory problems
-When work is being performed in the air shafts, the hotel must seal the vents and windows in the apartments affected
-the windows on the top floor must be covered with plastic sheeting during asbestos removal on the roof
-the hotel must obtain the proper permits for all work, and all work must be performed according to law
-72 hours notice must be given before any demolition or construction may begin
-plastic sheeting that blocks emergency exit paths must be removed, and stair doors must be unlocked. (This correction should be addressed immediately.)
-the hotel must acknowledge receipt of all rent checks and cash them immediately (unless this conflicts with their current or prospective litigation strategy or a Jewish holiday)
A couple of points are important to note here. For one thing, this settlement only directly affects tenants association members and the few other tenants who joined the lawsuit. For the rest of us, if we have mold or other problems in our apartments, we will presumably still have to dial 311 and deal with the various agencies if management doesn’t take action immediately. The good news is, many tenants have had their mold and other problems corrected in this way (it requires persistence, and sometimes the withholding of rent). The recent asbestos cleanup (made necessary both by Krauss/Elder’s botched removal attempt and the Chetrits’ mishandling of demolition debris) was brought about by tenant activist Arthur Nash calling the DEP, and had nothing to do with this court case at all.
For another thing, as far as we can tell, the Chetrits only agreed to do things that they were required to do by law anyway. So the main effect of this agreement is to take enforcement out of the hands of the various city agencies and put it in the hands of the court. I seriously don’t know if this is better or worse—better, I’m hoping—though enforcing compliance will no doubt involve the further use of lawyers and consequent further expense.
Furthermore, the settlement doesn’t seem to apply to any future problems, so even tenants’ association members will have to call 311 for these when they arise—or else go to court again.
Finally, head honcho Joseph Chetrit and his main corporation, The Chetrit Group, are let completely off the hook! For us, this provision would have been a deal-breaker, both for the reason that Big Joe is the man ultimately responsible for the health-endangering demolition of the hotel, and for the fact that he and The Chetrit Group have the deep pockets. It’s a question for the lawyers as to whether or not this settlement limits individual tenants’ association members’ ability to sue Joseph and his Corp. for damages (such as those related to health problems). -- Ed Hamilton
Good news from DOB: according to Matthew Katz of dnainfo.com they have denied the Chetrit's a permit for the rooftop addition due to inconsistent and inadequate information about the plan provided by the Hotel's current owners. The problem, it seems, is that the building is overbuilt. Basically, it has too many square feet and is too tall for the space, according to current zoning regulations. (The current building was grandfathered in.) So any proposed additions would only add to the problem. Look for the Chetrits to attempt to get around this problem in one way or another. We spoke with CB4 Chair Corey Johnson about this issue over the week-end and he promised to monitor the situation. We look forward to working with him on this and other issues. In other issues, a judge ruled today that the Chetrit's must clean up the hazardous conditions (including lead, mold, and asbestos) plaguing the Hotel by the end of July. The Chetrit's had ignored previous court to clean up the mess. Hopefully we won't all be evicted by then. http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120507/chelsea/hotel-chelsea-too-big-for-rooftop-extension-buildings-department-rules
As if we needed reminding that the Chelsea is over! After Patti Smith retained her integrity by cancelling her management-sponsored concert for the Chelsea Hotel tenants, King and Grove (the management company run by Ed Sheetz and Ben Pundole) vowed that they would continue to hold “cultural” events at the hotel. We are pleased to announce that they have kept their word.
Based on the available evidence, we are forced to conclude that this event will be some kind of quasi-religious ceremony for people seeking absolution from the sin of collaborating with the despoilers of the Chelsea Hotel. Expect a big turnout!
[Note: in case you don’t recognize the picture, that’s Pope Ondine from Chelsea Girls. He is looking down from that great confessional in the sky.]
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
Below is the first 2:42 of Gene Kaufman's presentation at Community Board 4's public hearing on April 4, 2012. (You will need to turn up the volume on your speakers.) Here is a draft of the resolution which CB4 will send to the Landmarks Preservation Committee, which plans to hold a hearing about the Hotel on Tuesday, April 10, at 9:30 A.M., Conference Room at 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor. Additionally, CB4 will send a second letter requesting that LPC delay the process until there is a clearer understanding of the overall plans for the Hotel.
The Virtual Hotel Chelsea which was created by Mykal Skall in May 2009 was recently forced to scale back its operations because to keep the Virtual Hotel Chelsea afloat was taking a considerable amount of energy, money, and time of a few dedicated individuals. Mykal's announcement that he would have to close the Virtual Hotel Chelsea was met with sorrow by supporters inside and outside of the virtual world. However, sentiments aren't accepted as payment even in Second Life. So, here is how you can use your real life resources to help keep the Virtual Chelsea Hotel going. And be generous, these guys have a lot of restoration to do.
Paypal -email@example.com just for donations to this project. It was said to us that if 100 people who cared about the Hotel donated just $20, that would sustain our operating costs for 1 year. We’ve already started receiving donations and it looks like this can be a reality.
Sponsorships - We are also seeking creative ways to sustain this project over time, or at least until LL goes belly up some day (at which point we will move it elsewhere for posterity) and are considering the following ideas:
If you donate at the $200 level you’ll get a virtual bronze plaque on the outside of the hotel!
If you donate at the $100 level we can place your name on one of the mailboxes!
If you donate $20 or more, you’ll get a virtual bronze sunflower placed on the stairwell railings!
You can always stop by the current build by joining SL to see the progress and donate to any of the spinning “Warhol Soup Cans” that you see.
We can make a virtual version of your business, gallery, etc. in SL near the Chelsea, or corporate sponsorships, (Chetrit, Krauss, et. al. excluded!), or advertising for a monthly fee.
You could sponsor a “special” virtual item that would remain in the hotel for guests and visitors to see, maybe the baby carriage, a famous author’s desk, or Sid’s bass?
We are also seeking partnerships from RL musical artists, indy labels, and gallery owners. This gives your artists a live outlet from the comfort of their own home or studio, and gives us new talent in SL.
Mykal writes "We will be back up and running very, very soon, and can’t wait to welcome our SL dysfunctional family back. Anyone who was renting at the time of the shut-down will get two months free rent, and we are currently taking reservations for the prime spots.
We will of course be providing the best of SL’s singer/songwriters on a weekly basis, but also have some new events coming up, such as a regular open mic poetry night, listening parties of albums by Chelsea related artists, and readings of literature by Hotel authors!
Michael Butler, Gene Kaufman, and their lobbyist Karen Ann Quinlan appeared at tonight's Community Board 4 Landmarks Committe meeting to present their proposed renovations to the Chelsea Hotel. They had lots of pretty pictures that didn't reveal much. When questioned for further details, the group proceeded to stonewall the Committee. They refused to answer basic questions on issues such as the amount of square footage of the proposed rooftop addition or what its purpose would be. Kaufman said he did not know the square footage. However, they would say that the usage would be "hotel related". Well, that's a relief. One resident mentioned that other zoning and DOB filings indicated that the addition to the roof would be a bar or nightclub, but Kaufman dismissed this as insigificant, saying that there may be various versions of plans floating around.
Neither Kaufman nor Michael Butler had any response to the question about how the asbestos abatement will be handled in the proposed new elevator shaft, which is currently an air shaft abutting approximately 22 apartments.
A resident from the Carteret questioned how the hotel will manage the noise from the proposed two new water towers and the HVAC unit. Kaufman acknowledged that there are noise laws in place and indicated that the Hotel will comply with the laws.
The Community Board Landmarks Committee felt that they could not properly deal with all of the issues related to the Hotel because of insufficient information.
The motion was passed to approach Christine Quinn and the CIty Development office to request that Landmarks delay their hearing until all of the matters can be investigated. As the committee pointed out, landmarking is not done in isolation; the concerns of the community have to be taken into consideration.
Kaufman did provide us a bit of definite, however, when he said that the only storefronts that would remain are El Quijote and Donut Planet.
On Wednesday, February 15, the Community Board 4 Landmarks Committee will hear the Chetrit group's proposal for changes to the store fronts and to the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. The proposed plans will be available for viewing. Please note that the venue has been changed to faciliate the viewing. It is now at 353 West 30th Street, Community Room, at 6.30 pm.
In an article in the New York Daily News Chelsea Hotel resident Collen Weinstein discusses her unsuccessful efforts to have her husband's artwork, which was removed from the walls of the Chelsea Hotel, returned. Her lawyer says: " In November, ... the artwork was put on a truck and that his client saw one of the works loaded and "not properly wrapped." He says Sirkin (Chelsea Hotel Manager Lilly Sirkin) refused to reveal where the art is and that the hotel won't let Weinstein remove a mobile of her husband's that hangs on the 10th floor."
We called the cops that day in November when we saw that Colleen's paintings and other art works from the Hotel were being thrown into the back of a Budget Rental Van. Sargent Fields refused to take a report, saying it was civil matter (since when is it a civil matter when someone steals your property off of your wall and refuses to give it back). We too (as well an many other residents) were told that if we got a signed letter from Stanley Bard stating that the Hotel did not own the item that was removed from the wall that it would be returned. Although we provided the proof demanded the work was still not returned, and so far, we've gotten nothing but a run around from Lily Sirkin and Michael Butler. Many other tenants have received the same treatment. Here's a pic of the license plate number of the Budget Rental Van that hauled the art away in November.
We stole our headline from Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. Jeremiah's brillant idea is to call for a "Die in" at the Chelsea Hotel tonight at 8 pm to coincide with Patti Smith's proposed concert in the Chelsea Hotel ballroom (Richard Bernstein's former apt.). Patti played last night for the developers and their friends. And tonight she is going to try to get the tenants on board with the developers program whatever it is. While the concert is going on with probably very few if any residents in attendance protesters will meet outside the Chelsea Hotel, raise lit lighters, and recite the lycris of Patti's song "People Have the Power". Bring umbrellas in case of rain. There may be other protests going on as well. Stay tuned. Details about the Flash Mob "Die in" are here and here. UPDATE: "DIE IN" logo has been provided by one of the Hotel's artists-in-residence.
Nobody seems to be buying Patti Smith's explanation of her involvement with the Chetrit's, and in truth, it does seem kind of evasive, like a non-answer cooked up by PR flacks. She doesn't really seem to address any of the issues we raised in any substantive manner. (She has no understanding of Landmarking issues, while on the other hand she seems ready to make a bogus legal judgment on who the rightful tenants are.) Besides, if she is not getting paid, that just raises the issue of what exactly she is getting out of it. Sorry Patti, but we don't quite buy the line that you are doing it out of the goodness of your own heart. And if she just wants to provide a nice evening for tenants, why did she have a separate event last night for friends and family of the developer? Yes, that's right, she entertained in the Chelsea Hotel ballroom last night at a totally separate event! (See Photo)
Historian Sherill Tippins has some interesting insight into the issue (exceprts from Sherill's Facebook comments around the concert): "Ed Scheetz, one of the co-owners of the hotel, fell in love with "Just Kids" and contacted her. I think she's telling the truth when she says she wasn't compensated. She doesn't need the money. And when they pitched me, they didn't offer anything and I didn't ask for anything. It was supposedly all about love for the Chelsea. (I swear, I figured out the scam pretty quickly!) With careful guidance from my Chelsea Hotel friends. I think her motive was good, as mine was: The Chelsea was sold, that was a fact. Tragically, the Bards no longer controlled it. But now there was this guy, one among the owners, who had caught a whiff of the magic of the place and wanted to preserve it. The problem is, he's not in charge. When I realized that they couldn't even SEE the current residents in the landscape of their plans, I knew that they didn't get it and that they would create havoc, fail, and eventually leave."
There has been worldwide interest in this issue, and we'd like to thank all of the bloggers and journalists who have written about Patti Smith and the Chelsea Hotel situation for their support. Oddly enough, none of them seem to be buying Patti's belated explanation for what appears to be a self-serving action. Here is a list of links to some of the coverage:
Her response, which still leaves a lot of questions, is published in full below. Since when can a landmark building be leveled? Patti, have you actually looked at the "renovations"? The historic rooms have been gutted. And, in case you haven't noticed, there are already a lot of artists in residence here and a lot of them are facing eviction proceedings.
My current involvement with the Hotel Chelsea began some ... months ago when I heard rumors that the hotel would be leveled. I was devastated and entered in a dialogue with the architect, through a mutual friend.
He assured me this was not the case and every effort would be made to save and restore the building, which was greatly deteriorating. Having witnessed the demolition and redevelopment of much of our city I was at least hopeful that the hotel would stand.
Since then my few efforts on behalf of the Hotel have been unofficial and uncompensated.
My dialogue has continued with the architect. My personal objectives have always been:
— To offer uncompensated advice as to the aesthetics of the renovation project.
— To council all concerned to develop positive communication to the rightful tenants.
— To be available in the future, without fee, in participating in the development and preservation of the artistic cachet of the hotel.
— To participate in the development of a possible artists-in-residence program.
My small performance for the tenants was my own idea. My hope is that we might have a nice evening and the opportunity to communicate directly.
I am an independent person, not owned or directed by anyone. My allegiance is to the Hotel itself, and I have done nothing to tarnish it. It is very difficult for me to embrace change, but my great hope is to witness the Hotel Chelsea find a strong and positive place in the twenty-first century.
The Bard family has been good to Patti Smith, helping her out at two difficult times in her life. The first time, in the late sixties when she was a struggling, unknown poet, Stanley Bard gave her and her friend Robert Mappelthorpe a place to stay so they could get out of the drug and vermin infested Allerton Hotel. The second time, in the late nineties, after the tragic death of her husband, Stanley came through with an apartment yet again. It is with great sadness, therefore, that we reprint the following invitation, which showed up in our Chelsea Hotel mailbox just yesterday.
Patti must not know that the person sponsoring her upcoming event, Joseph Chetrit, is the same developer who took Stanley Bard’s beloved Chelsea Hotel away from him and his family. And surely she is unaware that this is the same Joseph Chetrit whose demolition crews recently gutted over a hundred historic Chelsea Hotel rooms. Finally, if she hasn’t been in some way deceived, we know there’s no way in hell Patti would give a concert in support of a man, Joseph Chetrit, who is presently trying to evict almost thirty Chelsea Hotel residents using both housing and Supreme court.
We love Patti and her music, and we would love to see her concert, just not under these circumstances. And so we call on Patti, now that she knows the truth, to cancel this event.