Patti Smith Responds to Criticism Over Chelsea Hotel Concert

By Mathew Katz on January 11, 2012 5:29pm 

Patti Smith performs in Venice, Italy in Sept. 2011. The songstress is set to put on a private show at the Hotel Chelsea on Thursday.
Patti Smith performs in Venice, Italy in Sept. 2011. The songstress is set to put on a private show at the Hotel Chelsea on Thursday.
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Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

CHELSEA — Singer-songwriter Patti Smith has responded to widespread criticism from Hotel Chelsea tenants who say an upcoming concert at the landmark building's ballroom proves that she's sold out to its controversial landlords.

"I am an independent person, not owned or directed by anyone," wrote Smith in a statement.

"My allegiance is to the Hotel itself, and I have done nothing to tarnish it. It is very difficult to embrace change, but my great hope is to witness the Hotel Chelsea find a strong and positive place in the 21st century."

The controversy spread across the web after residents received a invitation to a private concert featuring "People Have The Power" songstress, organized by the landmark hotel's new owner, the Chetrit Group.

Tenants have long been engaged in a battle over a controversial renovation to the hotel at 223 W. 23rd St., and saw Smith's concert as a PR move. But in her response, Smith wrote that the performance was her idea.

Smith wrote that she's been brought on to give free aesthetic advice on the renovation and to develop positive communication to the "rightful tenants."

"My current involvement with the Hotel Chelsea began some months ago when I heard rumors that the hotel would be leveled," Smith wrote. "I was devastated and entered in a dialogue with the architect [Gene Kaufman], through a mutual friend."

The hotel is landmarked, and so cannot be knocked down, though renovations have gutted the building. In December, a housing court judge told the Chetrits to clean up renovations that an environmental survey said were hazardous to tenants' health.

Smith also said her future role would be to help preserve the "artistic cachet" of the hotel and "participate in the development of a possible artists-in-residence program."

Ed Hamilton, who runs the "Living With Legends" Hotel Chelsea blog, said the response simply wasn't enough.
"We are worried about who the rightful tenants are going to turn out to be," Hamilton wrote, pointing out that the Chetrits have filed eviction papers against several artists that already live there.
"We are glad that you aren’t  taking compensation but you should not let the Chetrits use you for propaganda purposes."

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