Vanity Fair Article on the Chelsea Hotel
"The residents of the Chelsea Hotel may still return to their mold-infested, dust-filled rooms this evening, but it will be with the glow of victory.
After failing to get the historic hotel’s new owner Joseph Chetrit to negotiate an agreement to repair the decaying building’s moldering walls, asbestos-filled airshafts and crumbling plaster, the tenants took the sidewalk yesterday in front of their building yesterday, along with a phalanx of politicians, to declare that they were ready to take the matter to a housing court trial.
The Chelsea Hotel Tenants Association, which filed a lawsuit against the Chetrit group to force the group to rectify unsafe conditions in the building last December, finally got its agreement today in housing court, said tenant attorney Janet Ray Kalson.
'It’s done!' announced a jubilant Ms. Kalson Monday afternoon. 'The main thing was that they needed to be put under order. Now there’s a very detailed time for repairs to the building. We’re very pleased.'
The agreement is very similar to “final” one that tenants and the Chetrit group negotiated last month, Ms. Kalson said, with only a few minor changes. The landlords’ decision to renege on that deal at the last moment, insisting on yet more changes, is what prompted residents’ to seek alternative avenues to improve their living situation, she said.
But given the many promises of improved conditions that the Chetrit group has broken over its brief time as owner, did Ms. Kalson think a court order would finally do the trick?
'We shall see… to be continued,' she said.”
…and the battle continues on, but with support from all sides…
: apartment decorated on the 10th floor, with photos of Corey Johnson and Christine Quinn to commemorate the press conference Sunday. photo courtesy of Hotel historian Sherill Tippins
“[On Sunday] the Hotel Chelsea got some attention in the form of a somewhat impromptu press conference on the sidewalk outside of the landmarked building. In recent years the strong community that had formed over decades has fallen apart at the seams, which started to happen the minute Stanley Bard was forced to leave as manager . The current state of things inside is dismal, with some remaining tenants holding strong, as construction crews gut their home and expose them to hazardous conditions, and new landlord Joseph Chetrit makes eviction attempts.
The press conference featured Speaker Christine C. Quinn, State Senator Tom Duane, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, the Chelsea Hotel Tenants Association, and local groups—all calling on Chetrit to reach an immediate agreement with tenants to repair hazardous conditions in the building.”
…and complicated relationships are questioned amidst the community - can the residents come together to generate greater positive change as a solidified force?
: press for the Chelsea Hotel as coverage on their cause starts to explode into the media!
and NYC council members speak out on behalf of the Hotel!
“’The landlord of one of Chelsea’s iconic buildings has done less than nothing to improve these conditions,’ said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. She added, ‘in fact, turning a blind eye and deaf ear to them only makes them worse.’
Neither Chetrit nor his lawyer, Fred Daniels, could be reached for comment.
The 12-story building on W. 23rd Street – which over the years has drawn artists and celebrities like Patti Smith and Bob Dylan for extended stays – was purchased by the Chetrit Group last year for close to $80 million. In December 2011, tenants sued Chetrit demanding that he repair unsafe conditions at the building.
Samuel Himmelstein, a lawyer for the tenants going to court, accused Chetrit of trying to drive long-term tenants out of the hotel. “You know you come in, you make conditions miserable, you start eviction cases against people and then you dangle money in front of people in the hope that they’ll take it since their lives are so miserable here.
'It's the kind of harassment we used to see in the 70's and 80's. It's come back at the Chelsea,' Himmelstein added. His firm is also representing several of the tenants facing eviction proceedings.
There are a total of 160 rooms in the building. About half were occupied by long-term tenants when Chetrit bought the building, according to Himmelstein.
Mary Ann Rose is one of those tenants. She has lived at the Chelsea Hotel since 1983. The 62-year-old artist says she has mold in her walls from water that regularly pools outside the window of her eighth floor apartment.
'It becomes a permanent pigeon birdbath. So that's what started the mold,' said Rose. She is a member of the Hotel Chelsea Tenants Association. There are 43 members of the tenant association, 36 of whom are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in housing court.”