Hotel Chelsea deal closes

Aug.August 02, 2011 01:58 PM
Eastdil’s Douglas Harmon and the Hotel Chelsea

The famous Hotel Chelsea — longtime haunt of luminaries like Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, and Janis Joplin — has been sold. Secretive real estate investor Joseph Chetrit reportedly signed a contract several months ago to purchase the iconic hotel from its longtime owners for more than $80 million, in a deal brokered by Eastdil Secured’s Douglas Harmon. But amidst a furor yesterday prompted by the abrupt removal of guests from the hotel, longtime residents began to think the deal would not come to fruition.

Their hopes were dashed when the sale closed last night at around 5:30 p.m., according to sources close to the deal. Further information was not available at press time, and Harmon, Chetrit and sellers Stanley Bard, Marlene Krauss and David Elder were not immediately available for comment. Hotel manager Arnold Tamasar also declined to comment.

The eye-catching red-brick building, located at 222 West 23rd Street, was built in 1883 as an apartment building. It became a hotel in 1905, and soon developed a reputation for hosting a parade of famous guests and long-term tenants. At the Hotel Chelsea, Dylan Thomas slipped into the coma that led to his death in 1953; Arthur C. Clarke wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey;” and Bob Dylan composed “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” The hotel is also where Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious, was found stabbed to death in 1978.

Over the years, the hotel has served as “an icon of artistic independence,” said photographer and building resident Brian Bothwell. He and other residents were gathered yesterday outside the hotel, waiting for news about the sale. As the hours dragged on with no update, they whispered about the possibility of the deal falling through, and talked about their wish for the return of longtime manager Stanley Bard, who was ousted in 2007.

“Bard was a modern-day Robin Hood,” said former Hotel Chelsea resident Jim Georgiou, a musician, curator and overall “Renaissance Man.” Georgiou cited Bard’s practice of “taking a chance” on young artists by allowing them to live in the hotel for next to nothing.

As for the sale of the hotel, he said, “corporate America has let us down.”

Tim Sullivan, owner of nearby Chelsea Guitars, has lived in the Hotel Chelsea for 30 years. He recalled that when he moved into the building, the block was “empty” except for a few methadone clinics.

Sullivan decried Chetrit’s rumored plan to build a bar on the building’s roof, and added that tenants are “completely in the dark” about plans for the building.

Today, the Hotel Chelsea blog Living with Legends posted only a photo of the building’s iconic neon lights, but with the word “Chelsea” replaced with “Chetrit.”

“My general reaction is one of extreme disappointment,” Ed Hamilton, the blogger behind Living with Legends and a longtime resident, said of the sale. “I really believe that if we had just fought hard enough, that the Bards would have been able to return to manage their building. Everything that the building is known and celebrated for was created during Stanley Bard’s regime.”

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