The Real Deal New York

Kaufman: Hotel Chelsea architect using my original design

Lawsuit over King & Grove conversion of property takes new twist as court looks into claim

May 21, 2014 10:56AM
By David Jones

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Gene Kaufman and the Hotel Chelsea

Architect Gene Kaufman is about to square off with King & Grove Hotels in an unusual court battle.

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge on Tuesday granted Kaufman an injunction in connection with a lawsuit he filed against the hoteliers. That suit came after Kaufman’s firm, Gene Kaufman Architect, was dumped as lead architect on the controversial Hotel Chelsea conversion on West 23rd Street. Rival Jonathan Marvel eventually got the job.

In his request for the injunction, Kaufman alleged that Marvel Architects is still using designs for the planned conversion. He also claims that Marvel should be forced to submit new drawings to the Department of Buildings, as the use of his firm’s drawings is illegal and unethical, according to professional standards. In addition, Kaufman wants King & Grove to pay his firm $80,000 he claims is still owed for architectural services rendered.

“Defendants continued use of plaintiff’s architectural and engineering designs and other work product in connection with the renovation of the Chelsea Hotel without plaintiff’s oversight, involvement and supervision, exposes plaintiff to third party liability claims and other claims that could result in damages in the millions of dollars,” Kaufman wrote in an affidavit.

The Department of Buildings rejected a number of designs submitted initially for a 150-person rooftop bar at the property. It is unclear, however, whether this had any impact on the dismissal of Kaufman as the lead architect.

The DOB shut down the conversion project in May 2013 after tenants complained that gas, heat and hot water were knocked out during a construction incident at the property, resulting in a massive response from the Fire Department, Con Edison and other agencies.

King & Grove hired Marvel as the new architect on the project in 2013 after it publicly split from the Chetrit Group, which co-owned the Chelsea and several other properties in the King & Grove hotel group. Chetrit had bought the iconic property in 2011 from former owner Stanley Bard for $80 million.

King & Grove defended its actions in a statement to The Real Deal:

“We terminated GKA last fall and hired Marvel Architects to redesign the plan in a manner consistent with our vision for the restoration of the Chelsea,” said King and Grove in an emailed statement. “Just as we have been making changes to improve the conditions at the Chelsea, Marvel Architects has a proven track record when it comes to preservation and sensitive redevelopment.”

According to King and Grove, they have offered to pay Kaufman the $80,000 balance and have place the funds into an escrow account. The hotel company said that Kaufman refused the money and is demanding that he get credit for the Chelsea design.

“We are happy to pay him what he is owed, however we are unable to give him credit for any aspect of the restoration of the Chelsea, as it would be false and violate the vision and integrity of the Chelsea.”

The landmark building, originally developed in 1883, was known as the temporary home of famous artists, singers and writers from Bob Dylan to writer Arthur C. Clarke and poet Henry Charles Bukowski.

Kaufman did not return calls for comment. Marvel did not return calls for comment, nor did the Department of Buildings.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for June 30.

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