Martha Washington Goes Coed

'Suitable Males' Allowed At Women's SRO

"Many of the hotel's permanent residents are there because they had been abused by the men in their lives," Edwards wrote in her security analysis. "The Hotel Martha Washington's 'Exclusively for Women' policy proved to be their safe haven."

But, in some ways, claims of safety at the Martha Washington are out of place. Tenants have complained that employees under prior management stole from their rooms, for example, and that exterior stairwells were used for prostitution. Even now, drug dealing and violence are not unheard of. In March, some unstable tenants used knives and screwdrivers to hack away at other tenants' doors. Some residents, like Alice, have turned complaints over to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, and police may begin to patrol inside the hotel.

Some of the most blatant criminal activity took place in the early '90s, when the club Danceteria rented space in the hotel's lobby; drug use was rampant. Danceteria was eventually replaced by the Melting Pot, where in 1994 eight clubgoers were wounded when gunshots prompted a stampede onto 29th Street.

In fact, the clubs are proof that profound transformations are not new to the Martha Washington; accommodating men might be just one more evolution. The space formerly known as the Melting Pot is now occupied by a mosque.

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