In New York, the bohemian aura of the Chelsea Hotel

The legendary hangout of the underground scene from the 1950s to the 1980s has been transformed into a luxury hotel after decades of legal disputes. The Manhattan establishment still has its unique ambiance, which is zealously upheld by the building's final historic occupants, who act as its protectors.

The net of rehabilitation which encircled for eleven years the number 222 of 23rd street West finally crumbled.

Its iconic wrought iron lace balconies have been returned to New Yorkers. In the halls repainted in black and white, we hung up the canvases that Stanley Bard, one of the former masters of the place, had not taken up. The joke is that he only left the scabs, but the new proprietors of the Chelsea Hotel defend their collection.

“Let’s state rather that he merely took the mentioned works, rectifies Ira Drukier, one of the three hoteliers who have just restored the venerable institution.

What should be done about a hotel that is steeped in history yet has tenants that cannot be removed?

Ira Drukier, Sean MacPherson, and Richard Born have been working together for the past six years to find a solution to this issue. Two other customers had previously suffered broken teeth at that location. The new management sums up the situation by saying that “the building was deteriorating and some people did not want to be disturbed,” in order to explain to the public the lengthy number of years that the establishment was closed. 

Even if the vast majority of the building’s most recent tenants, who number forty-four at this point, were in favor of the renovation, it only took a small number of disgruntled individuals to halt construction at the site. In 2018, New York City Hall suspended the building permit for a period of two years but later admitted that the suspension was unjustified. The municipality and the hotel both stand accused of several offenses.

The refurbishment of the Chelsea has moved along at an extremely snail’s pace.

The weeks turned into years and years into decades. In the interim, it has gone through two different ownership transitions, and it is still unknown when Chelsea will ultimately reopen its doors to the public. At the time of this writing, there are many pending legal cases. During the ongoing process of remodeling, there has been a lot of horrific destruction, but there have also been some successes. The remaining residents have filed a petition for rent stabilization, which means they are eligible to continue living there. Things are shifting, but it does not appear that they are passing away, as was my initial assumption. And as time went on, my project shifted from being a requiem to becoming a celebration of everything that continues to exist at Chelsea.

This study examines the ways in which creative individuals carve out a space for themselves amidst times of upheaval. The images depict a fleeting instant of a metropolis that is continuously undergoing change and capture a moment in time during this process. There was a time when those who lived unconventional lifestyles could find accommodation in New York for low rents. However, those days are long gone. Nevertheless, the artists who discovered it at Chelsea have persevered; they continue to lead creative and significant lives today. During one of my most recent shoots, I had the pleasure of meeting Chelsea resident and artist Bettina Grossman.

Tony Notarberardino, an Australian filmmaker, moved into the hotel in 1994 and eventually found a home in the flat that formerly belonged to Dee Dee Ramone. It had been occupied before by the artist Vali Myers, who had transformed her room into a living art installation and hosted contemporary figures such as Patti Smith and Salvador Dali there. She painted the walls in earthy tones of yellow, red, and brown, with checkerboard patterns and pictures of various animals placed throughout. Notarberardo has resisted the efforts of the developers, and he contends that his decision not to renovate the hotel or leave it is a significant act of resistance that will contribute to the preservation of the hotel’s history. “People want to come here and touch the wall that Jack Kerouac touched; they want that authenticity,” said the tour guide. “They want to feel like they are part of history.

Colleen, an interior designer, and her husband, Arthur Weinstein, who owns a nightclub, brought up their daughter Dahlia in the Chelsea neighborhood. Colleen did not arrive at the flat quite right away because it took her some time. When they uncovered the old marble in the lobby, that was the moment when everything began to change. Dahlia has moved back in with her mother and stepfather after the passing of her father. She had conflicting feelings about living in the hotel when she was younger, but as she got older, she came to adore the actresses, singers, and authors that frequented the lobby.

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