The bohemian long-term residents of Manhattan’s Hotel Chelsea may be about to meet their match in the New York landmark’s new owners: a Moroccan-Jewish family with vast American real estate holdings and past legal difficulties.
The Chetrit family, who purchased the famous property on August 1, has made clear its intention to remake the West Side building. And that is making at least some of the Chelsea’s famously bristly residents a little nervous.
“I would say it’s very clear their intentions are to get tenants out, because that’s what the practical nature of business demands,” said theater producer Scott Griffin, a 20-year resident of the Chelsea.
Griffin described the hotel’s atmosphere as “funereal,” since the family took control and closed the property to transient guests. “They’re being very formal and very respectful right now, as they make their changes,” he said. “But I don’t anticipate that to last. Not because they’re bad human beings, but they’ve made an investment and they need to make sure the investment realizes itself.”
Such cautious anticipation has not always characterized the hotel tenants’ attitude toward its owners. Following the removal of the hotel’s popular longtime manager in 2007, someone sent a fish head and a pile of excrement to one of the building’s owners. Though the manager wasn’t reinstated, his replacement was eventually chased away.
The hotel — usually known as the Chelsea Hotel — holds an unparalleled place in American pop culture myth: It was the site of the sexual encounter recalled in Leonard Cohen’s song, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” and of the murder of Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious. William Burroughs wrote “Naked Lunch” at the Chelsea, and everyone from Dee Dee Ramone to Bob Dylan spent long hours in one or another of its rooms.
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