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Hotel Chelsea Landlord Ignored Court Order, Tenants Say

By Mathew Katz | April 8, 2013 1:42pm

CHELSEA — Fed up with what they call unlivable conditions in their building, residents at the Hotel Chelsea want to see their landlord held in contempt of court over an ongoing renovation there.

In a motion filed in housing court on April 3, dozens of tenants at the hotel claim that landlord Joseph Chetrit largely ignored a May 2012 court order to clean up the renovation, which tenants complained flooded their apartments with dust, mold and toxins and created dangerous conditions in the hotel.

"The violations of the consent order and stipulation accelerated and included failure to provide heat and hot water, plumes of hazardous dust, floods, collapsing ceilings and electrical work constituting a serious fire safety hazard," the papers said.

The alleged contempt culminated on March 21, when a contractor working on the renovation shut off the building's main gas line, leaving tenants without heat, hot water and cooking gas for days.

While heat was restored on March 25, the building still did not have cooking gas on Monday, and hot water was sporadic, according to the tenants' attorney, Janet Ray Kalson.

The Department of Buildings issued a full stop work order on the property after it lost gas, and on Monday it had 40 open DOB violations. After a March 22 inspection, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development issued 35 "immediately hazardous" violations, 99 "hazardous" violations and 18 "nonhazardous" violations.

A separate environmental inspection by Olmsted Environmental Services, commissioned by the Hotel Chelsea residents in January, found that there was up to 20 times more dust inside the building compared to the street immediately outside. The inspection also found huge amounts of gypsum dust and crystalline silica, which both irritate the lungs.

The motion asks the court to hold Chetrit in criminal and civic contempt, issuing a combination of jail time and fines, and even order him to pay for residents' food while they're unable to cook in their apartments.

Kalson said that Chetrit and his manager, Michael Butler, largely ignored the tenants complaints. Kalson included 45 emails sent by her firm to Chetrit documenting the alleged violations brought on by the renovation, few of which were fixed.

The Chetrits and Butler did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They are set to face off in court with the tenants on April 25.