NEW YORK - For close to a decade, scaffolding has obscured the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street.
The iconic hotel is known for its famous former residents like Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith. But these days that legacy is being overshadowed by a renovation project that has sparked a war among tenants.
"We, the majority, want this building to be finished," said Chelsea Hotel Tenants Association President Zoe Pappas.
Pappas says seven tenants out of the nearly 50 in the building are the reason a partial stop work order is in place and renovations pretty much are at a standstill.
Those tenants, who through their lawyer declined to be interviewed by NY1, say hotel owner Ira Drukier is using the construction to try to force them out of their upper floor apartments — something Drukier denies.
"We have no interest in moving tenants out. We'd like them all to stay," Drukier said.
Those seven tenants have filed lawsuits and made numerous complaints to the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development about leaks, flooding, the lack of hot water, unsafe conditions, and renovations their lawyer has called illegal.
More than a year ago, the Buildings Department issued a partial stop work order because the owner had not obtained what is called a Certificate of No Harassment, a document that is needed to renovate a single room occupancy building.
Drukier, who took over in 2016 after a brief stint running the place 12 years ago, says he assumed the certificate was in place.
The Building Department renewed the permit for the building seven times during the course of that time, from 2011 to 2016.
HPD says its own investigation has determined there's reasonable cause that harassment occurred.
The issue will go before an administrative judge next week. That judge will recommend whether the certificate of no harassment should be granted.
In the meantime, the only work going on in the hotel involves common areas on the ground floor and some upgrades to the elevators, wiring and other infrastructure.
The rest of the place remains unfinished.
"I don't understand why. I don't understand why they would want to live like this," said Ellen Garretson, a tenant.
The owner says the seven tenants have said they would drop their suits and leave in return for a $50 million settlement. Their lawyer says he won't comment on the negotiations.
The owner says he's not paying $50 million and vows to finish the work.
The tenants who support him want it to happen immediately.
"We really need this. Otherwise, what's going to happen? Are we going to have to endure another five years? Are you kidding?" said Merle Lister-Levine, a tenant.