Saturday night was, by all indications, the last night that the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street would be open to guests, though the duration of the closing, the first in its history, was unknown.The landmark hotel has been immortalized in song by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Stooges, Nico, and more recently, Ryan Adams, The Antlers, Alejandro Escovedo and Okkervil River. The Hotel Chelsea Blog's last post yesterday was just a picture of the sign made to read "Hotel Chetrit."
The building is to be sold for over $80 million to the developer Joseph Chetrit, though the deal had not closed as of Sunday, according to someone close to the matter, who asked not to be named because the negotiations were confidential. Extensive renovations are expected to take at least a year. The hotel's 100 permanent residents will be allowed to stay, but they have been told nothing beyond what the startled hotel workers learned late last week: that all reservations after Saturday were canceled.
...Mr. Chetrit, who did not return calls for comment, is said to want to keep the Chelsea as a hotel, but the plans are unclear. The building, a looming Queen Anne that opened as a co-op in 1884, is landmarked.
Gene Kaufman, an architect hired to oversee the renovations, said the plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems and the lobby all had to be overhauled, but added that much of the hotel's original charm, including the wrought-iron interior stairwell and the art, would be preserved. "People should not be nervous about that," he said.
But residents are nervous. The hotel has been owned by the same families since World War II. Scott Griffin, head of the tenants' association, said he believed that the goal of the hotel's two controlling shareholders was not to maximize profits but to empty the building.
"This is one of the greatest cases of corporate mismanagement," Mr. Griffin said. Several shareholders, among them Marlene Krauss, the target of much resident vilification, either did not return messages or declined to comment.
Part of the allure of the Chelsea, beyond the creepy yet tantalizing feeling that the place is thick with spirits, is that from the inside looking out, New York can still feel gritty. Its cavelike hallways are lined with paintings, striking collages and old electrical wiring caked with innumerable coats of paint. A palpable heaviness lingers, especially in the first-floor room where Nancy Spungen was staying with her boyfriend, Sid Vicious , when she was stabbed to death in 1978 [as immortalized in Sid & Nancy]. Artists, photographers, composers and producers still live there, making the place part art colony, part living museum.
Residents say the hotel's character shifted irrevocably after its lionized former manager and part-owner, Stanley Bard, was ousted by the hotel's board of directors four years ago. Mr. Bard had acted as curator, deciding who got to stay and how much would be paid, and overseeing the hotel during the days when the likes of Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen and Robert Crumb roamed its halls. Residents said the hotel's occupancy and room rates had suffered since Mr. Bard's departure, with celebrities and artists replaced by budget tourists.