City alleges Chelsea Hotel owners harassed tenants during renovation
Lawyers for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation announced Friday that the Chelsea Hotel’s owners did not qualify to receive a Certificate of No Harassment (CNH)–the document required for them to continue renovations to convert the dilapidated landmark into a luxury hotel with apartments. The document is required under a decades-old law to protect Single Room Occupancy residences from tenant harassment. As The Real Deal reports, The city’s allegations of harassment are the result of tenant complaints that since owners Richard Born and Ira Drukier of BD hotels began work after acquiring a stake in the property in 2016, conditions like leaky ceilings, exposed electrical wires, high lead levels, vermin and lack of heat have made living there unsafe.
Other tenants claim the unlivable conditions date back to 2011 when previous owners began an earlier round of renovations, The City reports. A group of the hotel’s tenants sued the developers last year, claiming the new landlord did not have proper certificate of occupancy.
Work on the property has been halted repeatedly by stop work orders from the Department of Buildings, and BD Hotels needs the CNH, which is required for conversion of rent-stabilized residential hotels into apartments–in order to resume work. The quirky residential hotel, famous for being a bohemian haven for artists, writers, and musicians, including Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick, Jasper Johns, Patty Smith, Dylan Thomas and Leonard Cohen, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The hotel was reportedly home to 51 long-term residents when the developers acquired it.
HPD spokesperson Matthew Creegan told The City that the agency began an investigation according to protocol when the owners applied for the certificate in 2019. The agency found “reasonable cause” to allege that tenant harassment had occurred, adding that HPD would make a final decision after a trial before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
In yet another twist, the hotel, the owners reportedly funneled tens of thousands into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political action committees and hosted a fundraiser that raised $90,000 in political contributions during the mayor’s short-lived presidential run. The contributions were made during the time they had applied for the no-harassment certificate from the city, as 6sqft previously reported.
For their part, the owners vehemently deny that they’ve harassed anyone. Drukier told The City, “Look, our only objective is to try to finish the building and get the tenants living in a nice environment, safe environment, and this just prevents that. I don’t know how this helps the tenants and I don’t know how this helps anybody. I don’t know how this helps the city. I’ve never harassed a tenant in my life. Do I get angry sometimes? Sure, but I’ve never harassed anybody. I’ve tried every which way to accommodate those tenants.”
- Chelsea Hotel owners have sent nearly $60,000 to de Blasio in attempt to gain favor for construction
- Our 220sqft: This couple has made it work for 24 years in a Chelsea Hotel SRO
- INTERVIEW: Author Ed Hamilton on how the Chelsea Hotel inspired personal stories of gentrification
- Hoteliers buy historic Hotel Chelsea for $250M, will redevelop as condos and hotel