Hotel Chelsea Is Now Closed to Guests; Residents Feel Like 'Survivors of the Titanic'
A small white piece of paper was affixed to the left front door of the Hotel Chelsea today: "The Hotel Chelsea is temporarily closed. We apologize for any inconvenience," it read. There was a space. "Thank you."
As the hotel ceased operation and the last holdout guest packed his bags yesterday, the permanent residents of the famed building on West 23rd Street are left wondering what comes next. Of the seven we spoke to outside this afternoon -- we were told by a temporary security guard that we could not enter -- some were hopeful, while others took the closure as a death sentence. One anonymous resident described it as "funereal." "I feel like one of the survivors of the Titanic," said Brian Bothwell, a 53-year-old tenant who's lived there 16 years.
Early Monday evening, Bothwell explained, residents discovered that the sale of the Chelsea to developer Joseph Chetrit had been finalized.
Now, with the hotel guests gone, the halls are different. Sybao Cheng-Wilson, an art administrator who has been living at the Chelsea since 1988, said that although it is a lot quieter and the elevators are not as packed with people, the vivacity "happy" vacationers brought to the environment is gone.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous (as did many others), said the doors of the guest rooms have been painted white, a contrast to the dark brown of others. Cheng-Wilson said, at least on her floor, an extra lock has been added to the newly white doors.
Multiple residents, including Bothwell, said the staff had been laid off. Ed Hamilton of Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog wrote to us in an email,
It is my understanding that all union employees except for two engineers were laid off. All of the housekeepers were laid off. All of the bell men were laid off. Today, one employee was called back to empty the trash for the 100+ tenants who remain in the Hotel.
When we were at the hotel in the early afternoon, garbage had not been taken out. Cheng-Wilson said when her husband asked about the garbage at the front desk he was told by the person working there, "I don't know."
"We're really in limbo right now," she said. Residents we spoke to said they have not been given any notice as to what the next step is.
But even as Cheng-Wilson -- who handles the estate of her deceased brother, artist Ching Ho Cheng, a resident of the Hotel Chelsea himself -- wondered what was going to happen with her mail, which she said later she eventually received, she remained optimistic. "I feel it's all going to be sorted out," she said.
Another woman exiting said that even though residents don't know what the plan is, she would be content to have a "beautiful renovation."
Some residents speculated as to what the building would become. A 40-year resident, who would not reveal his name, predicted condominiums. Bothwell said that that scenario happens if "all goes wrong." He also suggested that the new owner could renovate it just to resell it again.
"These are people that don't really care about New York," he said. "They don't care about the community. They see the Chelsea Hotel as some kind of cash cow."
Bothwell pointed at a line of cars parked in front of the entrance: "Normally you would never see three or four cars parked in front of the building," he said, adding that it was kept clear for taxis and limousines.
Dim lights still shone in midday on the plaques with the names of the Chelsea's most famous patrons. But the previous night, the neon "Hotel Chelsea" sign, looming high above the awning, was dark.
Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.