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Artist Nicola L. has lived in the Chelsea Hotel for 23 years. But since 2011, when the hotel was sold and major renovations were begun, she and a group of fellow tenacious tenants have struggled to hold onto their apartments while dealing with the massive disruptions to their surroundings. I went to visit Nicola on the eve of the opening of her documentary, which is told from the point of view of the hotel itself and narrated by Sylvia Miles. The film opens May 13 with a screening at the French Institute Alliance Française’s Tinker Auditorium (22 E. 60th St., nr. Madison Ave; 212-355-6100). The hotel’s grand staircase was still intact, at least.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

But that was all. Walking down the ghostly hallway, as I tried to find Nicola’s apartment, all I could think of was The Shining.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The doors to all the apartments have been sealed with plastic tarp, owing to dust from the construction. I finally found Nicola’s bell hidden underneath one piece. In a short release about the movie, Nicola wrote, “Our hotel has been sold, and we, permanent residents, have been sold along with it. From one day to the next, the tourists vanished. Next it was the staff, who many of us considered family. We found ourselves orphaned.”

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Happily, Nicola’s apartment is unscathed, along with the beautiful wrought-iron balcony beyond the Snail table Nicola designed in 1994.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The apartment is filled with Nicola’s conceptual art and furniture. During the sea change of the sixties, when she was living in Paris and spending time in Ibiza, her world exploded upon meeting the Argentine artist Alberto Greco. He inspired her to create from a completely new center. Some of the pieces in her apartment are the result of that. Here is her Green Head sofa done in 1989. And her Egg table sculpture (2005) that sits on top of her Twelve Faces rug (1989).

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Nicola first came to New York during the late sixties, a time when the Chelsea Hotel was rife with painters, rock stars, writers, and composers. “The Chelsea Hotel was always a refuge for artists,” Nicola tells me as we sit down for a chat over her Egg table. “There is so much history here! The second-class-passenger survivors of the Titanic were brought here!” Today, she says, there is “construction and destruction” taking place.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Nicola’s fireplace is adorned with her 1968 Lips lamp. Her La Femme commode, done the following year, commands attention in the foreground.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Nicola opened her first shows of functional art in 1969 in Paris at Daniel Templeton and in Brussels at Galerie Veranneman. She also began doing performance art that year at the Festival of the Isle of Wight and then in the streets of London and Paris, among other European cities. The Osiris table, shown here, was done in 2005.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

At first glance, Nicola’s Iron table looks like an ironing board. A closer look and you discover the torso of a woman constructed from marble and wood held up by steel legs, which she made in 2005.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Nicola is staying positive and looking forward to her film’s opening despite what’s going on in her beloved Chelsea Hotel. In her press release describing the film, she writes, “We buildings speak, but you humans cannot hear us.” Luckily, Nicola proves that some of us can.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Craig Murphey (left) Ten Eyck Street and Union Avenue, Williamsburg. Early in the morning of October 18, 2007, Murphey was biking home from escorting his date to her South Williamsburg apartment. According to police reports, Murphey attempted to outrun a gas truck turning left on Ten Eyck Street. His pelvis shattered on impact, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. In his honor, over 40 friends have since received tattoos that read BE BETTER.

Frank C. Simpson Linden Boulevard near 175th Street, St. Albans. Simpson, a janitor returning from the evening shift at a Con Edison facility, was hit by a Dodge Stratus on November 9, 2006.

Jose Mora (left) North Conduit and McKinley Avenues, Cypress Hills. On September 4, 2006, 11-year-old Mora was on his way to the barber for a back-to-school haircut; that week, he was to start the sixth grade at nearby Junior High School 302. He was struck by a Honda while walking his bike across an intersection.

Jonathan Neese South 4th Street and Roebling Street, Williamsburg. On August 12, 2006, Neese, a bike messenger known as “Bronx Jon,” was struck by a livery cab while cycling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Sam Khaled Hindy (left) Base of the Manhattan Bridge. On November 16, 2007, Hindy was run over after mistakenly entering a Manhattan Bridge lane reserved for cars.

Habian Rodriguez Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing. On September 1, 2007, Rodriguez collided with a city bus and died 30 minutes later.

Elizabeth Padilla (left) Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place, Park Slope. Commuting to the Brooklyn Bar Association on June 9, 2005, Padilla swerved to avoid the open door of a parked P.C. Richard’s truck. She lost control of her bike and fell underneath the wheels of an ice-cream delivery truck.

Juan Luis Solis East Gun Hill Road and Bouck Avenue, the Bronx. Attempting to pass a double-parked car on June 22, 2007, Solis was struck by a box truck and died of severe head trauma. The truck did not stop.

Jeffrey Moore (left) Chauncey Street and Rockaway Avenue, Bed-Stuy. According to witnesses, on May 29, 2007, Moore was run over (twice) by his girlfriend Jeanine Harrington. She was indicted on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon (her Nissan Pathfinder).

Derek Lake Houston Street and La Guardia Place. On June 26, 2006, Lake reportedly skidded on a steel construction plate and was crushed underneath the wheels of a passing truck.

Elijah Armand Wrancher (left) Springfield Boulevard and 130th Avenue, Springfield Gardens. On August 28, 2007, 12-year-old Wrancher attempted to ride his bicycle while holding onto a moving truck. He lost his grip and fell under the truck’s rear wheel.

David Smith Sixth Avenue and 36th Street. On December 5, 2007, Smith was biking up Sixth Avenue when the passenger-side door of a parked pickup truck opened unexpectedly. He was knocked into the path of an oncoming truck.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Fall Fashion Features

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.

 

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.
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