Piri Thomas and The Hotel Chelsea


Angry residents of the Hotel Chelsea have championed the case of Piri Thomas.

As the fight between longterm Hotel Chelsea residents and the new management gets uglier and uglier, residents have pinned some of their hopes on a court case in California involving Piri Thomas, the author who detailed his Spanish Harlem childhood in the classic autobiography “Down These Mean Streets.”

When reached at his California home, Thomas—who is battling his step-son David Elder, the man who residents say orchestrated the boardroom coup that ousted hotel lifeblood and long-time hotel manager Stanley Bard—was surprised that he has become a cause celebre among hotel residents. He couldn’t believe that his once obscure case had been thrust into the spotlight after languishing in the courts for years.

But Thomas said he hoped to prevail:
“The trustees have just been doing us dirty,” Thomas said. “They have been spending all the money so that we won’t have any. It’s just been terrible.”

The Living with Legends blog has brought the case into the spotlight, and an ad-hoc blogspot site, which may or may not be related to Living with Legends, Save Piri Thomas, has also cropped up in the last month.

This is Living With Legends analysis of the legal battle:

When David’s mother died in 1986, she left her 16% interest in the Chelsea Hotel to David and his two siblings in trust. However, the trust stipulated that Piri Thomas, her husband and David’s stepfather, was to receive all income from the trust for as long as he lived.
David and his siblings didn’t care for that arrangement and have refused to hand over the 1.2 million that the trust has generated in income, forcing Piri to sue for the money. Though the court called David and his siblings’ argument that the income was principal “absurd,” and ruled against them, they have tied it up in appeals.

Thomas’ wife, Suzie Dod Thomas, said she didn’t want to comment on the case outright but clarified some information that’s been reported. The next big date in the case is August 20 when a court-appointed mediator will consider Thomas’ motion to have Elder removed as a trustee of the estate, she said. The appeal regarding the $1.2 million is indeed still pending, she said.

Some of the California court documents can be found here.

The Voice Tricia Romano took a look this month at some of lesser known residents of the Chelsea.