The plastered on a lobby door of the historic Hotel Chelsea could be lifted any day now, allowing for a new round of renovations in rooms once occupied by the likes of William Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious and any number of wannabes drawn for decades to the old brick building with wrought iron balconies on West 23rd Street.
“The issues have been resolved,” said a spokesperson for Ed Scheetz, CEO of the King & Grove hotel chain and the latest owner of the Chelsea.
Construction work at the bohemian haunt began in 2011, when the controversial Chetrit Group took charge. Ed Scheetz — now the hotel’s sole proprietor after buying out his partner in King & Grove, Joseph Chetrit, and two other associates in August — has claimed he wants to retain its “character” and improve relationships with tenants.
But Scheetz offered buyouts to all of the Chelsea’s remaining residents — about 75 mostly rent-stabilized tenants — soon after he took over, said Zoe Pappas, president of the hotel’s tenants association.
At least one tenant accepted a six-figure buyout, according to other sources. And managers have offered a reported $450,000 to a resident of “The Townhouse,” a rundown brownstone, also acquired by Scheetz, located behind the landmarked hotel, at 229 W. 22nd Street.Tina Rossner, a 69-year-old designer who once created album covers for Yoko Ono, is considering accepting the offer and leaving her $381-per-month rent-controlled studio on the third floor. She believes Scheetz plans to buy out The Townhouse’s seven other rent-stabilized units so he can covert it into a market-rate property.
A spokesperson said that King & Grove has no “specific” plans for the building, and insisted transactions with tenants were private. The hotel chain “continues to be improving living conditions for the residents in the building and in their individual apartments,” a statement read. “We enjoy our relationship with our tenants and expect that they will remain part of the fabric of the Chelsea for a long time to come.”
Still, Pappas — a Romanian born engineer and painter who oversees 38 members of the tenants association — said Scheetz’s blanket buyout pitch to all tenants was still open.
According to Pappas, Scheetz has been far more accommodating and “cordial” to the Chelsea’s renters than the “oppressive” Chetrit, who treated tenants like second-class citizens. “The difference between the two is like night and day,” she said while seated on a sofa in the $1,500-a-month studio that she shares with her architect husband and pet parrot.Scheetz, Pappas noted, also settled a dispute stemming from contempt proceedings the tenants association had filed against Chetrit last year in Manhattan housing court. Chetrit was accused of “denying services” to his tenants and ignoring a court-ordered clean-up of environmental hazards resulting from his company’s dust-spewing renovations of the hotel.
“The tenants who were part of the settlement got the equivalent of 4.7 months free rent starting in November,” Pappas said, rattling off a list of accommodations that the attorney for the tenants association, Janet Ray Kalson, had worked out in a settlement deal.
“It was a significant victory for the tenants,” said Kalson of the agreement. One of its provisions barred the Chelsea’s new landlord from imposing rent increases on association members for major capital improvements like new windows. She said Scheetz also agreed to pay $100,000 in legal fees racked up from litigation started by her clients late in 2011.
“We put pressure on Chetrit and he sold his shares in Chelsea Dynasty to Scheetz in the middle of the trial” last August in Manhattan housing court, Kalson said, referring to the entity that owns the hotel and The Townhouse.
Several tenants characterized Scheetz, a former CEO of the Morgans Hotel Group and a friend of nightlife impresario Ian Schrager, as a smoother operator than Chetrit and said he appeared to be trying to start over in life after a spate of lurid news reports surfaced in 2007 when his 24-year-old girlfriend died of a drug overdose at his Las Vegas condo.
Rossner said she hasn’t met Scheetz, but has heard he’s a “straight shooter and a gentleman.” She’s satisfied with repairs made to her studio in The Townhouse and other staff members have offered to help her relocate to a “replacement” unit should she accept a buyout offer if it comes her way again.
But she isn’t sure she can afford to move to a market-rate apartment. “I have to figure out how much money I would need to live in New York,” she told B+B. “It’s unlikely I’ll ever work again.”
Rossner said she suffers from an auto-immune inflammatory disease and had a “mild stroke” that caused severe dizziness after the third ceiling collapse in her apartment late in 2012. She claims Chetrit failed to make repairs in a timely fashion and was “actively trying to destroy” her apartment as way of forcing her to leave. More recently, she staved off Chetrit’s summer eviction notice with a “one shot” financial award from the city which she said allows her to pay more than $3,000 in back rent that accumulated when she spent money trying to make repairs on her own.
On the other hand, Scheetz’s managers have shown her a studio at King & Grove’s flagship hotel on East 29 Street, she said. “But it seemed like a broom closet compared to my studio, which is very large — 560 square feet. I walked in and walked out.” Rossner said King & Grove reps also showed her walkups, but they didn’t allow pets (she has a dog, Forbes).
Before Christmas, Rossner said, three of Scheetz’s reps — including Shiry Zofnat, a vice president of acquisitions and development at King & Grove — visited her in her studio and asked what kind of apartment she was looking for.
“I was kind of overwhelmed because I didn’t expect three people to show up,” she said, but she answered their questions. She hasn’t heard from them since, but she noted she would like a one-bedroom apartment at least equivalent in size to her studio and in an elevator building in Chelsea, where she’s lived for more than 45 years.
“It occurred to me it would be great to have modern appliances because nothing has been done to [improve] this building since I moved here in 1968,” she said.