DOB orders Chetrit to halt work at Hotel Chelsea

Workers knocked out gas, heat and hot water at property

New York /
Mar.March 22, 2013 06:30 PM

UPDATED, 12:04 p.m., March 23: The city Department of Buildings ordered Joseph Chetrit to stop work at the Hotel Chelsea late Friday night, in response to a construction incident that knocked out gas, heat and hot water at the property — and a day after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn demanded an immediate shutdown of construction.

DOB inspectors, along with officials from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, ConEdison and the Fire Department of New York swarmed the building at 222 West 23rd Street on Friday, after tenants complained to Quinn’s office and other officials about the collapse of essential services at the property.

“HPD will be issuing violations for no heat and hot water and no gas as these conditions have not yet been addressed by ownership,” a city official, who asked not to be identified, told The Real Deal.

The incident is the latest in a series of problems since Chetrit acquired the property in 2011 for $79 million and began a controversial renovation to transform the fabled building — which has long been home to artists, writers and low-income tenants — into a King and Grove branded hotel. Hotel Chelsea operated as a hotel under previous owner Stanley Bard, but had about 100 mosty rent-stabilized residents.

Chetrit was out of the office and could not immediately comment, according to a company official.

A spokesperson for King and Grove said the inspections were “in the ordinary course of construction activities ongoing at the hotel,” but was not immediately available to comment after the stop work order was issued.

Quinn, whose district includes the property, fired off a letter to Chetrit late yesterday, alleging that contractors “locked the meter and shut down gas service” to the building.

According to ConEdison, plumbers accidentally knocked out gas when doing work without prior authorization from the utility. A spokesperson for ConEdison told The Real Deal that gas would not be restored until the owners take several additional steps to improve conditions.

A spokesman for the FDNY said no emergency personnel were at the scene, but could not comment on civilian employees or other non-emergency officials. DOB officials were not immediately available for comment.

Quinn, in her letter, reminded Chetrit of an outstanding violation from the New York City Environmental Control Board, issued after construction workers broke through a tenant’s ceiling.

“You must stop this blatant harassment of your tenants,” Quinn wrote.

Samuel Himmelstein, an attorney representing the tenants in a lawsuit over the conditions, said he planned to head back into court next week to file a contempt motion against the owners. He said Friday night that heat and hot water  had been restored after the heating source was switched from a gas-powered to an electric-powered source.

Tenants told The Real Deal they will continue to fight against what they consider harassment to get them to leave the building.

“This is not a joke and this is not a game for us,” said Zoey Pappas, head of the building’s tenants association, which represents more than half the property’s rent-stabilized residents.


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