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Hotel Chelsea Owners Seek Landmarks Permit to Add Rooftop Extension

By Mathew Katz | February 7, 2012 1:40pm
The Hotel Chelsea's new landlords want to build a large structure on its roof, according to documents filed with the city.
The Hotel Chelsea's new landlords want to build a large structure on its roof, according to documents filed with the city.
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Hotel Chelsea

CHELSEA — Owners of the Hotel Chelsea have come under fire for gutting the inside of the former artists' mecca — and now they're angering foes by asking for permission to build an extension atop the landmarked West 23rd Street hotel.

The Chetrit Group has filed an application with the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to "construct additions and rooftop bulkheads, install mechanical equipment and balcony partitions; and replace ground floor infill, windows, and a canopy"  at the hotel at 222 W. 23rd St., according to the LPC.

For years, hotel owners and managers have made no secret of their desire to build a rooftop bar on top of the famed Chelsea Hotel. The Department of Buildings rejected a November application to move ahead with the bar, largely because of a lack of proper fire exits from the rooftop.

Last month, however, the Department of Buildings approved the hotel's application to build a 16-to-30-foot tall rooftop scaffolding that would serve as a template for the landmarks commission to mock up what the proposed new structure would look like.

The two-story scaffolding — the approximate height of the bar the Chetrits want to build — is currently in place on the roof, according to residents of the hotel and its neighboring buildings.

Officials with The Chetrit Group could not be reached Tuesday.

The proposed changes to the rooftop could lead to another costly confrontation between the hotel's roughly 100 remaining tenants and the Chetrits. 

"This is a landmark building and you don’t want to put something that doesn't fit it all," said Zoe Pappas, who leads a hotel tenant's association. "Plus, there are people who are living in the other buildings nearby, which are residential. There is a synagogue next to us. I’m not sure that this is the way to go."

A resident of the neighboring Carteret said the scaffolding blocks the sunlight, and the idea of a noisy rooftop bar is "terrifying" to fellow Carteret tenants.

The application was set to go before Community Board 4's Landmarks Committee on Feb. 15 and then to the city's Landmarks Preservation Committee on Feb. 21. That meeting has been delayed until March, but it was not immediately clear why.

In December, lawyer Samuel Himmelstein filed a lawsuit on behalf of 34 tenants against the hotel's landlord, asking the court to order the landlord to repair dangerous conditions in the apartments and the hotel's common area that tenants said were created by months of renovations. In January, a judge ordered the Chetrits to remove dangerous asbestos from the hotel's shaft space.

Some of the hotel's residents have also accused Chetrit of trying to evict them.