The breaking news at New York's famed Chelsea Hotel is that managing partner Stanley Bard, and the rest of the Bard family, have been forced out by their board of directors. Starting Monday, an as yet unnamed new management company will take over the day-to-day operations of the hotel.
The beloved Stanley -- everyone calls him by his first name -- has been in charge of the hotel for over fifty years. It was he who fashioned and maintained the unique creative dynamic of the hotel, presiding over the sixties when Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen wrote some of their greatest songs here, and Andy Warhol filmed the famous Chelsea Girls. Since then, nearly everyone who's anyone in the New York art, music and writing scene has lived here at sometime or another, including Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, Madonna, Dee Dee Ramone, and more recently Ethan Hawke and Ryan Adams.
Stanley has always managed to keep rents low for the creative people living here, most of whom -- unlike the stars listed -- don't have much money, but all of whom are just as important in maintaining the famous Chelsea spirit. Certainly we're all a bit apprehensive here at the hotel, wondering what will happen now to our unique artistic community.
The actual ownership structure of the hotel is a closely guarded secret. It is known that Stanley's father, David, in partnership with two men named Krauss and Gross, bought the hotel in 1940. (Stanley took over upon his father's death in 1957.) These days, the part of the hotel that Stanley's father owned is still in the Bard family, but the interests of the other partners' families are represented by a board of directors. The board seems to have given Stanley a wide latitude in managing the hotel over the years -- that is, apparently, until just recently.
What happened is that the hotel simply became too valuable. When Chelsea was a depressed neighborhood it was one thing, but now that this area is one of the most desirable in New York, the temptation to cash in has apparently proved too compelling to ignore. The other owners --
outsiders who have no stake in the Chelsea -- would just as soon turn the building into a boutique hotel and rent the rooms to rich tourists, or gut the building and convert it to condos.
Lately, the board had been pressing Stanley relentlessly to make more money, and in the past few years he made a series of missteps, raising rents on many tenants -- perhaps illegally -- initiating a flurry of lawsuits. Despite some ruffled feathers and bad feelings, however, few of us here doubt that Stanley has always had our best interests, and those of our unique community, at heart. On the other hand, many of us suspect that this is what gave the board the pretext for the take-over.
Stanley, who was seen staggering out of his office Thursday evening in disbelief after being given the news, was ousted just days before his 73rd Birthday on June 16. He had planned to turn over the reins of the hotel to his son, David, who has worked alongside him for many years. Please write in to this blog or to Living With Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog, to show your support for the Bard family and the Chelsea artistic community.