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The Chelsea Hotel Becomes a New York Battleground (nytimes.com)
41 points by lermontov 76 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

The Chelsea is a very special place. I was lucky enough to be born and live there for the first chunk of my life. The long term tenants are incredibly interesting people. Though it's known for its artist population, there are all sorts of folks that live there, writers (like my mom), musicians, painters, sculptors, but also psychologists, dentists, designers, architects (like my dad) and entrepreneurs.

My next door neighbor was an excellent painter named Herbert Gentry [1] and his wife Mary Anne Rose. To this day a small globe encased in an epoxy resin cube that I used to play with as a child while visiting him and he subsequently left for me in his will sits on my work desk underneath my monitors. Across the hall were a pair of sisters that lived together and ran their own business designing and selling, quite successfully, bizarre and gaudi sunglasses! I think the HN crowd might really have enjoyed them actually.

Halloween as a kid in the Chelsea was amazing, people would go to incredible lengths when opening the door for the horde of child sized monsters roving the beautiful wide hallways (The same hallways where I learned to roller skate!). I remember one resident that opened the door hanging upside down as Dracula. He was using one of those door frame mounted sit up devices, but the interesting part was he had somehow rigged his cape to fight gravity as well. Fishing line maybe? Stanley was quite the character. He's one of the first people, outside of my family, that I can remember meeting. He was one of the reasons the Chelsea is still so interesting to this day. It was a very different time. The artists could negotiate their rent payments with him and he was used to it. Now I doubt you could get away with that anywhere in Manhattan. It really was kind of like his own little menagerie.

Anyways, really cool place. If you're ever walking by, I'd encourage you to step into the lobby. I'm not sure what it looks like now, but there used to be some pretty visceral sculptures and other pieces of art in there.

(1): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Gentry

This is largely irrelevant, but Leonard Cohen’s song “Chelsea Hotel #2” is the primary reason I find the hotel special. Every time I walk past the song pops in my head. I’d be excited to see the hotel returned to some glory, bohemian or not. It’s been under scaffolding for most of a decade it seems.

One of the things I think is special about NYC is the degree to which its physical places have become a part of the wider American culture.

From Central Park to the 59th Street Bridge to the Empire State Building to Macy's, I probably knew more places in New York when I first moved there than I could name in my own home-town. Part of that is the relative sizes, but New York has a cultural footprint beyond other large cities like Chicago or LA.

Which is saying a lot considering how much larger the film industry is in Los Angeles. A huge percentage of films are done in southern California and even written into the script as taking place there. And yet the iconography and history of New York city is just so rich that it still pervades a lot of pop culture.

Yeah, it's almost an indictment of LA.

I know there's a pier, but I'm not sure if there's one pier or a lot of them. I know about the concrete river, and the Hollywood sign, and that's about it.

My wife and I are Newyorkers (well, to be fair, Newjerseyans) that want to move out West. We love California, both SoCal and the Bay Area, in spite of its warts, and frequently visit.

But we realized that despite living right next door to NYC, we haven't really explored it. We might have explored LA or SF just as much if not more than NYC - especially the non-Manhattan boroughs. We've even started visiting San Diego right before Covid hit.

I'm not sure why to be honest. I guess the fact that it's just there and available whenever makes us postpone it.

While we still want to pack our bags to head out West, we've realized we really ought to take in NYC while we're still here.

Being on the top of the Empire State Building with my uncle who absolutely loves NYC and having him just point out so much famous stuff is a great memory. Just history as far as the eye can see.

Two words: rent control. The long term tenants have leases that will be very valuable if the hotel recovers. Owners can't kick them out, but have no real desire to appease them, as they pay almost nothing.

Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids" has terrific detail about daily life in the Chelsea Hotel in the 1960s-70s.

I'm confused. The article talks about "tenants". Does this mean the Chelsea Hotel is not actually a hotel, as it has long term tenants?

The Chelsea used to be an artist's cooperative, it was a mix of long-term and short-term residents, and was infamous for being lax with rent payments, with many living there rent-free.

This medium article gives a good perspective of its past.


The word comes from the French hôtel, which just means hall. Historically, many "hotels" were places that housed medium-to-long-term guests, either exclusively or alongside short-term visitors. Like the Eloise books, which took place at the Plaza Hotel, or Paris’s Hôtel des Invalides, where wounded soldiers recovered.

IIRC hotel and hospital have the same roots, which makes the term "hospitality" much less confusing.

The article covers this pretty clearly, describing decades-long tenants and saying:

> Plans are underway to make the Chelsea Hotel an actual hotel again.

The Chelsea Hotel is usually best known for having housed many famous figures over the years:


I'm honored to have been exposed to some of the hotel's history and its famous tenants through a relative who was part of the scene in the 90s. Truly an iconic place!

Lou Reed's Chelsea girls (Nico)

Less famous but similar is Breton Hall on 85th Street and Broadway


ritzy tenants lol, you’ve obviously never been inside the Chelsea or met its actual tenants.

I have insider knowledge of the hotel and its tenants. The Chelsea tenants are firmly wealthier beyond the American middle class.

>I have insider knowledge of the hotel and its tenants.

Perhaps you would care to elaborate, then, rather than simply being snarky?

That's not hard to believe.

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