Former Rock and Roll Wife Battles Upper West Side Hotel Plan
By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — She used to rock and roll all night, but that doesn't mean she wants a party every day on her block.
Lydia Criss, the one-time wife of drummer Peter Criss of the 1970's hard rock band KISS, was first in line to speak out against a plan to bring a high-end rental property to West 68th Street at a Community Board 7 meeting Tuesday night.
"They could have Jay-Z there, and he could have bodyguards with guns, they could have Lady Gaga there," Criss said. "I've lived it, so I know."
Criss and other neighbors on the quiet tree-lined block are worried the townhouse rental property would be a venue for loud, late night parties that would choke their street with limos, drinkers and second-hand smoke.
"I have substantial concerns about my ability to live, work and sleep peacefully with this building in operation," Criss told Community Board 7. "This hotel could host community events including parties all day long and well into the night."
Community Board 7 sided with Criss, voting against the proposed rental property. But the Planning Commission and City Council have final say on the matter.
Developer Fine Times, Inc. wants to convert 15 West 68th Street, a historic townhouse, into a short-term rental property for ultra-wealthy clients. The 11-bedroom house would be rented to a single family or group for at least one week and for as long as 30 days. Events for as many as 50 people would be allowed at the townhouse.
Some on the block support the idea, saying they want to see the long-vacant townhouse restored and maintained. But others worry about possible parties in the townhouse.
Criss, 62, wrote a memoir called "Sealed With A Kiss" in which she detailed wild nights spent with KISS. She's lived in a coop on West 68th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue for 25 years.
Criss said she knows from personal experience that celebrities don't think twice about behaving badly in hotels. That's what happened when KISS took over two floors of a hotel in Japan, she said.
"It was party all night long," Criss said. "It's a lifestyle I've lived, so I'm familiar with it. People when they're drunk, they don't want to listen to anything."
Criss was the inspiration for the number one KISS hit "Beth," for which Peter Criss sang lead vocals. It includes the lines, "me and the boys will be playing all night."
Fine Times, Inc. says Criss and other neighbors are unfairly slamming the proposed rental townhouse. They say they want to restore an elegant building and make it into a tasteful rental property that will enhance the block.
"We're not out to make this an events space," said Joe Lopez of Fine Times, Inc. at Tuesday's meeting. "It's a residential experience that we want for people staying there, and we have to respect the neighborhood. We own four buildings there."
Fine Times, Inc. owns four buildings on West 68th Street and 12 others on the Upper West Side. The company specializes in restoring and maintaining historic buildings.
15 West 68th Street was originally built in 1910 as a mansion for a wealthy family, said George Fontas of Capalino & Company, lobbyists for Fine Times. In the 1940s, it was chopped up into several apartments.
It's been sitting vacant for the past several years, and Fine Times wants to bring the building back to its past glory, Fontas said.
The Beaux Arts townhouse has elegant interiors with sweeping staircases, a chandelier, tapestries, fireplaces and stained glass windows. It's rumored that Madonna considered buying the building a few years ago.
Fine Times originally planned to rent the townhouse only to members of a private club for the wealthy. Club members would pay up to $50,000 a week to "live like Upper West Siders," the New York Times reported last year.
The club idea has since been scrapped, but Fine Times still plans to cater to super-rich guests who would otherwise rent out entire floors at the Four Seasons, Fontas said.
"This is not a property that's going to be advertised on Orbitz or Travelocity," Fontas said. "This will be marketed to a select group of higher end travel agents around the country and the world."
Several people on the block, including members of the West 68th Street Block Association, support Fine Times' proposal. The block association worked with Fine Times to write a set of rules for the rental property to control possible noise and disturbances.
Among the supporters is Nancy Pindrus, a photographer who's lived on the block for more than 30 years. She lives in 21 West 68th Street, a building that Fine Times owns.
Pindrus organized a petition supporting Fine Times' proposal. She called Fine Times the best landlord she's ever had, and said the company has been "nothing but a positive influence" in the neighborhood.
Pindrus said she had no worries about the proposed high-end rental.
"The people that are going to pay this kind of money to be on this kind of a street, I very much doubt they'll create disturbances," Pindrus said. "They'll want to be low key."