The Chelsea Hotel community,
together with music fans from around the world, mourn the recent passing of
South African jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin (Oct. 17, 1936 – Aug. 20, 2013). She was 76.
longtime resident of the Chelsea, Sathima moved into the hotel in 1977
with her husband, the celebrated jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar
Brand). She remained at the Chelsea
until 2012, when she and her family moved back to Cape Town.
In her long
career, Sathima and her husband worked with jazz artists as diverse as Dexter
Gordan, Ben Webster, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. Sathima recorded ten albums over her long
career, including Morning in Paris
with Duke Ellington, and Dedications,
which was nominated for a Grammy in 1982.
Though she often worked in the shadow of her more famous husband,
Sathima’s incredible career is the subject of a 2010 documentary film, Sathima’s Windsong, directed by Daniel
Yon (below is the trailer).
Sathima was an important part of
the Chelsea community, and many residents attended her 70th birthday
party at the New York jazz club Sweet Rhythm.
But the last time we heard Sathima sing was at an event at a Village
club honoring longtime friend and fellow jazz performer Stormé Delarverie. Early in the evening, standing in the
restless crowd as disco music throbbed through Henrietta Hudson’s, Sathima
expressed some reservations about singing: “I think we’re at the wrong
place. I don’t think these people want
to hear me sing. I think they want to
dance.” We assured her that they would
love her singing. “For Stormé,” she
said, “I’ll sing.” And in the end, she
had them eating out of her hand. In the
cab ride home, satisfied with her performance, she said, “I came, I did my
thing for Stormé, and it wasn’t hard work for me!”
The Green-Wood Historic Fund in association with
Variations Theater Group is producing The Spoon River Project outside in Brooklyn’s
grand Green-Wood Cemetery. The shows take place after-dark and deep in the
heart of Green-Wood’s 478 acres. On Saturday’s there are two shows, the second
is at midnight! Arrive at 11:30pm under the cloak of darkness for this
special performance. And before it begins, you'll
travel deep into the heart of Green-Wood for a tour of the Catacombs,
an historic in-ground vault usually off-limits to the public. Buy tickets and learn more here!
The Chelsea community is united this week in mourning the passing of one of its own, artist Lloyd M. Rucker. Although the exact circumstances of Lloyd’s death are still under investigation, on the 18th of this month his body was discovered by a hotel staff member in his small room on the first floor.
Lloyd was born on March 24, 1957, and grew up in Virginia. At the age of 16 he left home and moved to New York City, living where ever he could find a place to stay for the night, and learning to scrape by as best he could. In the early eighties he moved into the Chelsea Hotel, and knew at once he’d found a home. Lloyd lived in the Chelsea for (approximately) the next 28 years. For many years, Lloyd lived on the fifth floor in a room facing 23rd St. At some point, however, he moved to a smaller room on the first floor, where he lived for several years with his then wife YenWen Chen. Lloyd, who was quite distraught at the recent destruction of the Chelsea, had recently been fighting eviction in housing court.
Lloyd worked primarily as a painter. He loved color, both in his manner of dress and his art. Several of Lloyd’s paintings were, until the Chetrits’ recent anti-beautification campaign, on display throughout the hotel. Lloyd’s style was eclectic, his canvases alternately abstract and realistic. (You may remember the two that hung in the stairwell: one depicted a man in a hat riding a bird; the other was a swirling yellow and orange abstract.) A true Renaissance Man, Lloyd was also a collagist, a musician (he played the guitar and sang), a songwriter, a poet, and an artist’s model.
Graceful and poised, as one would expect of a model, Lloyd was also very strong physically and very body-conscious, a gentle giant. He was a true gentleman, his ex-wife, Yen, told us, an extraordinarily kind and caring individual. He didn’t care for money, and would share what little he had with others, frequently buying food for the homeless. Though he loved people, Lloyd was a private individual and typically didn’t complain about anything. He was someone who could always get by on his own, and he taught Yen, too, how to survive in the city.
Though Lloyd loved life, he wasn’t afraid of death. He would say he had just graduated to another plane of existence. All he asked was that he be allowed to live and die at his beloved Chelsea Hotel. And while he may not have wanted to go so soon, in the end he got his wish. Lloyd believed that if he was to return to this Earth he would come back as a flower—that’s what he called himself, in fact, the Iron Flower, because he was beautiful but also strong.
Lloyd is survived by his ex-wife, YenWen Chen, and by several family members from Virginia, including his mother and father. Our thoughts go out to Lloyd’s family and friends in their time of bereavement. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time but we will update the blog as more details become available.
Daniel, who owned Daniel Reich Gallery, on West 23rd St., moved out of the Chelsea Hotel sometime around late 2011 or early 2012. After battling eviction in Housing Court, he reportedly took a small amount of money from the Chetrits in exchange for vacating his apartment.
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
CB4 Chairman Corey Johnson addresses the Hotel's concerns at press conference earlier today in front of the Chelsea Hotel.
State Senator Tom Dunane, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, and CB 4 Chairman Corey Johnson were all present. Several politicans mentioned issues related to the Tenant's Association Lawsuit against the Chetrits, addressing such concerns as asbestos abatement, mold, hazardous conditions during construction and demolition and in general poor living conditions for the tenants. Johnson addressed the proposed rooftop addition taking issue with the fact that the Chetrit's will not identify what it's for (obviously a club of some sort) and saying the roof will be overbuilt. He also characterized this obscuring of information as typical behavior for the Chetrits.
Also discussed was the matter of evictions of tenants, and it was mentioned that there are 15 eviction proceedings in court at this moment (some cases have been settled recently when tenants agree to move out).
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 Landmarks Committee of Community Board 4 voted on March 21 to NOT recommend the Chetrit Group's proposal for an addition to the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. On Wednesday, April 4, the full Community Board will have an opportunity to respond to the Committee's recommendation and hear other opinions before it makes a final recommendation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Among the concerns raised by the Landmarks Committee were: blockage of air and light to residents, the roof's loadbearing capacity, elevator security, and lack of appropriateness of the design. (Photo credit: DNAinfo - Joe Chetrit, Gene Kaufman and Architect)
Additionally, LPC has the Chelsea Hotel listed on their agenda for a public hearing on April 10. The hearing covers: Application to construct roof and rear yard additions, install mechnical equipment and balcony partitions; and replace storefronts, group floor infill, windows and a canopy.
Meeting Schedule: Community Board 4 - Wednesday, April 4, Fulton Center Auditorium, 119 Ninth Avenue between 17 / 18 Street, 6,30 pm -- Arrive early and sign up to speak.
Landmarks Preservation Commission - Tuesday, April 10, 2012, at 9:30 A.M., Conference Room at 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
While it is important to attend these meetings in person if you are unable to attend you can also write a letter expressing your views:
Community Board 4 / Manhattan 330 West 42nd Street, 26th Floor New York, New York 10036