Hotel Chelsea Too Big for Rooftop Extension, DOB Records Show

By Mathew Katz on May 7, 2012 2:01pm 

A rendering of the hotel's north side after the proposed changes.
A rendering of the hotel's north side after the proposed changes.
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Gene Kaufman

CHELSEA — The Hotel Chelsea faces an uphill battle to get city approval for its controversial rooftop addition project — because the building is already as much as 30,000 square feet too big and five feet too tall for its zoned plot, according to Department of Buildings records.

Filings show the legendary hotel at 222 W. 23rd St. hotel already has a total floor area of 166,770 square feet — more than 30,000 square feet larger than the 129,953 square feet allowed under current zoning rules.

It's also 150 feet tall, above the allowable height of 145 feet, according to DOB documents.

According to a DOB spokeswoman, the Hotel Chelsea was able to avoid violations for being larger than current zoning laws allow because it was built in the 1880s — before the zoning resolution went into effect.

But DOB officials have repeatedly shot down applications by Hotel Chelsea owners the Chetrit Group to convert its rooftop space into a 150-person bar — most recently on May 3 — because the landlord provided it with inadequate information to determine if it complies with zoning regulations, a spokeswoman said.

The Hotel's owners submitted a bid to build a 16-foot-high, 3,865-square-foot stucco addition onto its roof in October.

Any new additions to the property would be subject to current zoning rules, a spokeswoman said.

The DOB relies on the applications in order to determine square footage, but several discrepencies exist in applications filed by the renovation's architect, Gene Kaufman, on behalf of Chetrit Group, which owns the Hotel Chelsea.

Different applications list different numbers for the building's existing size — in one application, the developers filed a proposed commercial zoning area of 90,702 square feet and a residential area of 79,331 square feet.

That equals a total area of 170,033 square feet — almost 2,000 square feet more than the landlord's application lists it as 168,875, and far more than is allowed by zoning rules, according to DOB records. Other records include different estimates, with different final tallies.

The building's landlord did not respond to requests for comment.

The zoning conflict is the latest in a long line of controversy for the Chetrit Group, which has submitted numerous applications to expand the building's rooftop as part of its ongoing internal renovation.

Despite vehement opposition to the expansion from concerned tenants and the local community board, the addition to the landmarked building was approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Committee last month.

Community Board 4 sent a letter to the DOB last week, saying the 16-foot addition would "increase its degree of non-compliance" with regulations.

"The hotel is already overbuilt, so there's no room for a rooftop additional at the hotel," said CB4 Chair Corey Johnson at last week's full board meeting.

"The hotel is already overbuilt, so there's no room for a rooftop additional at the hotel," said CB4 Chair Corey Johnson at last week's full board meeting.

Fewer than 100 tenants, which was a former home of stars including Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, remain at the hotel, which shut to guests for the renovation in the fall.

Since then, residents have complained of dangerous and unsanitary conditions as a result of ongoing construction work, including hazardous levels of dust, mold and lead in the air.

In December, a judge ordered the building's owner to clean up the renovation, but on Sunday, a collection of tenants and elected officials said the hazards remain.

Both the tenants and landlord were set to appear again in court Monday.

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