Chelsea Hotel Tenants Return to Court Over Health Hazards
By Kiratiana Freelon on May 6, 2012 5:18pm
By Aidan Gardiner and Jess Wisloski
DNAinfo.com New York Reporters
CHELSEA — Tenants of the Chelsea Hotel and their supporters railed against the living conditions in their building Sunday, saying the situation continues to deteriorate despite a judge's orders to shape up.
Both the tenants and the landlord are set to appear again in court tomorrow.
A group of nearly 40 tenants and political leaders, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, State Sen. Tom Duane, and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, gathered in front of the iconic building at 222 W. 23rd St. to call for swift action.
"We’re here today, unfortunately, to address how far the Chelsea has fallen," Quinn said.
In December, a judge ordered developer and owner Joseph Chetrit, who purchased the hotel last summer, to address unsafe living conditions brought about by extensive renovations, after 34 tenants filed a lawsuit against Chetrit.
“Yet, the landlord of one of Chelsea’s most iconic and important buildings has done less-than-nothing to improve these conditions," said Quinn.
Chetrit made some fixes immediately after the judge's order, but the progress has stalled.
In court tomorrow, the tenants hope secure an agreement from the landlord to correct the conditions, and conform construction "in a manner that would protect the health and safety of the tenants," according to one of the tenants' lawyers, Janet Kalson.
The tenants and their lawyer had commissioned a health report reported first by DNAinfo.com New York in November, which showed that recent renovations had kicked hazardous levels of dust, mold, and lead into the air.
On Sunday, Quinn promised to unleash the full investigative force of all city departments with oversight of the construction until the owners complied with the judge's orders.
"We will watch the work that you do under a microscopic lens,” said Quinn. “We will simply not let our neighbors be treated this way."
Mary Anne Rose-Gentry, a painter who moved into her 8th-floor apartment in 1983, and who has lived in the Hotel Chelsea since 1978, showed off large mold splotches that have covered her wall that faces W. 23rd St.
“The wall is coming out because it’s damp," she said. "Not healthy, not healthy."
She also showed off rust that had developed in her kitchen sink. “You can clean, but when everything's rusted, it’s not very pretty,” she said.
Calls to the Chetrit Group were not immediately returned.
Samuel Himmelstein, an attorney for the tenants, said there had been significant improvements since the original health hazard lawsuit was filed.
"We don't want to say it’s all negative," said Himmelstein.
"This is a much better Chelsea than it was several months ago,” he said, thanks to cleaning efforts by the owner that came following the lawsuit.