A security guard outside Hotel Chelsea and actor Jeffrey Stewart checking into Chelsea Savoy Hotel
[Updated at 2:39 p.m. with comments from Scottish actor Jeffrey Stewart] Police were called to the iconic Hotel Chelsea in the wake of a ruckus caused by the hotel suddenly closing to guests, according to witnesses.
Hotel guests were told that their reservations were cancelled and were unceremoniously booted from the hotel yesterday, prompting the police to come to the scene at least twice.
Jeffrey Stewart, a Scottish actor known from his longtime role on the British cop show “The Bill,” had been booked to stay in his room at the Chelsea until tomorrow, and refused to leave. As a result, he said, he was awakened this morning at 9 a.m. by “banging” on the door and repeated phone calls to his room demanding that he depart the premises.
Feeling threatened by security guards who said they would make him leave, Stewart said, he called the police.
“I’m a good citizen — I didn’t cause a nuisance,” said Stewart, who was in town to receive an award from the Manhattan Film Festival for his role in the film “Under Jakob’s Ladder.” Being ordered to leave in that way felt “like an affront,” said Stewart, who checked into the hotel July 23, and has stayed at the hotel every time he’s come to town for the past 10 years.
Rumors swirled last week that the hotel had ceased accepting guest renovations, amid speculation that the move was an act of union-busting by Chetrit, who can reopen Hotel Chelsea, also called the Chelsea Hotel, as a non-union hotel in a year, after the contract has expired.
But Stewart said he was not told in advance that he would need to leave the room early.
“They could have told me when I checked in,” an indignant Stewart — still wearing his pajamas — told The Real Deal, as he checked into a room at the Chelsea Savoy Hotel down the block.
Stewart wasn’t the only resident who called police. Another guest returned to the hotel yesterday after lunch to find that all of her belongings had been removed from her room.
“They just packed her things without her knowledge or consent,” said the guest’s brother, who rushed to the scene and called the police. “We were just astonished that they went in when she wasn’t there and packed all of her stuff. They wouldn’t let her go back to the room to see if she’d forgotten anything or not. It was all just stuffed in a bag.”
Police who arrived on the scene said there was little they could do, the brother said. (The New York Police Department wasn’t immediately able to provide any information.) He added that his sister, who had traveled to New York from Australia, was given no advance notice that her reservation had been canceled, and the hotel made no attempt to find somewhere else for her to stay.
“There were a lot of very angry people, and they didn’t make any alternative accommodation arrangements,” he said. “They just sent all the tourists on the street to fend for themselves.”
Hotel manager Arnold Tamasar declined to comment.
Developer Joseph Chetrit signed an agreement earlier this year to purchase the Hotel Chelsea, located at 222 West 23rd Street, for more than $80 million, and architect Gene Kaufman has reportedly signed on to renovate the building.
This morning, “the union members were not allowed to return to work,” according to building resident Ed Hamilton, author of the book “Legends of the Chelsea Hotel” and the Hotel Chelsea blog Living With Legends. Meanwhile, there were rumors that sewage was backing up in the basement after someone filled the pipes with concrete, Hamilton said.
Maids, engineers and other building workers milled around outside the building, waiting for an update while union leaders met with hotel staff. Layoffs are expected, they said, but nothing is final until Chetrit’s purchase of the building has closed. Union leaders said they would provide more details this afternoon.
Rumors circulated that Chetrit was having problem getting financing for the deal, in part because of a recent reported rift between Joseph Chetrit and his brothers.
Long known as a Bohemian enclave, the hotel has a colorful population of artists and musicians, many of whom have lived in the building for years.
Residents, who are protected by rent-stabilization, said Chetrit has not made any attempts to evict them, according to Hamilton, who has lived in the building for 16 years.
Still, “everybody’s pretty worried,” he said.
Residents said they fear the Chetrits will transform the building into something resembling the Empire Hotel on the Upper West Side, causing
it to lose its unique character.
“It does need to be renovated, but it needs to be renovated respectfully,” said Tim Sullivan, a building resident and owner of nearby Chelsea Guitars.
Tenants said they hope the sale won’t go through, and that the hotel’s former managing partner, Stanley Bard, will find a way to buy the landmarked building instead.
If not, 16-year-resident Brian Bothwell said, “another bite has been taken out of the Big Apple.”