The home of Suzanne Lipschutz, owner of antiques store Secondhand Rose. All Images by Colin Miller; courtesy of The Monacelli Press
Despite ongoing legal conflicts and stalled plans to convert the storied structure into a luxury hotel, the Chelsea Hotel remains one of the city’s legendary landmarks. Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven, a new book published last month by The Monacelli Press, documents the homes of nearly two dozen current residents (there are about 50-60 remaining residents in total) who still embody the bohemian spirit of the Gilded Era hotel that was once home to seminal figures like Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs, and Thomas Wolfe.
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It’s been several years since Ira Drukier and Richard Born took over as owners of the historic Chelsea Hotel with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel. The rent-stabilized tenants who remain in the hotel even as it’s been turned into a construction zone have filed multiple complaints with the city, hitting the new owners with violations and a lawsuit. But The City has uncovered a link between those complaints and Drukier and Born’s donations to Mayor de Blasio’s political funds. Over the course of less than a year—from August 2018 to June—18 checks totaling $57,400 were sent to de Blasio’s presidential campaign from either the owners or people associated with them. The checks started coming soon after city building inspectors began responding to tenant complaints about hazardous living conditions.
Twenty-four years ago, when writer Ed Hamilton and his wife Debbie Martin moved into the Chelsea Hotel “everybody at the hotel was in the arts. There were always parties, and somebody was always having a show of some kind.” They’ve spent more than two decades in a 220-square-foot SRO room, and despite not having a kitchen and sharing a bathroom, they have loved every second of it. Where else could you live down the hall from Thomas Wolfe’s one-time home? Or share a bathroom with Dee Dee Ramone?
But eight years ago, the landmarked property was sold to a developer, and since then, it has changed hands several times. Ed and Debbie have lived through nearly a decade of “renovations” (it’s still unclear when and if the property will eventually become luxury condos), all the while watching their rent-stabilized neighbors dwindle as the construction and legal battles got to be too much. In true old-New York fashion, however, Ed and Debbie have no thoughts of giving up their Chelsea Hotel life. They recently showed us around their bohemian apartment, and even as they took us through the building, covered in dust and drop cloths, they speak fondly of their memories and their commitment to staying put. Ahead, get a closer look at why trading off space for history was the right choice for this couple and learn how they’ve made it work, what their wildest stories are from the hotel’s heyday, and what their most recent tenant lawsuit may mean.
You don’t want to miss this apartment tour!
Images: Bathroom accessories (left), Apple’s first smartphone attempt (right)