CHELSEA — The ongoing saga over the renovations to the historic Hotel Chelsea got a shake-up on Wednesday when the building's reclusive owner defended his construction plans and addressed residents' concerns.
Joseph Chetrit, the reclusive and notoriously press-shy Moroccan real estate mogul who purchased the hotel at 222 W. 23rd St. last year, has largely avoided public meetings but spent hours with a team of architects trying to convince a landmarks committee to accept a proposed rooftop expansion to the building.
He says the move wouldn't harm the historic structure — or the dozens of angry hotel residents also at the meeting.
"Nobody's looking to hide anything," Chetrit said. "We're working full time, very hard, to give you the best product."
Chetrit has bought and sold billions of dollars worth of New York real estate, including the St. Vincent's Midtown Hospital, the Standard Oil Building, and the International Toy Center on Fifth Avenue. He also owns a large share of the former Sears Tower in Chicago.
The Community Board 4 Landmarks Committee saw plans for a proposed exterior renovation to the hotel last month, but asked the landlord's architects to return with more detailed plans and answers to their many questions.
Chetrit and his team, led by architect Gene Kaufman, spent much of the night digging through 70 boards detailing the plans, which need to be approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The landlord's proposal would add a 16-foot-high, 3,865-square-foot stucco addition to the building's rooftop, which would be flush against the windows of several occupied apartments.
Residents said that would seal off light and air to 10 people and cut off roof access to others.
The rowdy residents in attendance expressed their fears about the overall renovation plan, including the addition, which they suspect will eventually become a nightclub.
"Is this going to be a penthouse, or is this going to be a disco?" asked resident Mark Timmerman.
"I don't think it will be a discotheque. It will probably only be a breakfast room or a lunch room," Chetrit responded, ending hours of silence.
The landlord added that he was still unsure how the addition would eventually be used.
The CB4 Landmarks Committee has authority only to comment on how the application would affect the exterior of the building.
The application also includes plans to install new windows, add elevators and change storefronts.