The Chelsea Hotel sits on 23rd Street near Seventh Avenue like a living cultural icon, wheezing but still standing while the rest of Manhattan kept changing. Being a diehard Janis Joplin fan (though I haven’t listened to her music in years because it still reminds me of despair and whiskey), I’ve looked at the Chelsea a thousand times and recalled an iconic photograph of her standing in front of this Hotel. It’s where Dylan Thomas had his last conscious moments, where Leonard Cohen had a tryst with Joplin that he wrote infamous lyrics about. Where Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe called home for a while. It’s part of the city’s cultural legacy, and it may be on its way to development hell.
As of last Saturday, it will no longer accept guests. The residents have been told they’ll stay, but we take these things with a choking grain of salt. It wasn’t that long ago that the YMCA just across the street still had residents and a long storied history. Now it’s a David Barton gym.
Saturday night was, by all indications, the last night that the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street would be open to guests, though the duration of the closing, the first in its history, was unknown.
The building is to be sold for over $80 million to the developer Joseph Chetrit, though the deal had not closed as of Sunday, according to someone close to the matter, who asked not to be named because the negotiations were confidential. Extensive renovations are expected to take at least a year. The hotel’s 100 permanent residents will be allowed to stay, but they have been told nothing beyond what the startled hotel workers learned late last week: that all reservations after Saturday were canceled.