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Going Condo or Getting Boutiqued?

The Contenders: David Edelstein (left), David Bard (right).  

Then again, they may not even get to see that. “Everyone who lives there is going to have a very limited ability to continue to do so,” says a person familiar with the bidding.

Nemo Librizzi, an artist who consulted on atmospherics for the Hotel on Rivington, doesn’t think he’ll have as hard a time with the new ownership as some of the others in the building. “I guess I’m privileged to be in that group of the kind of desirable bohemians,” he says. He and his wife, Kacey, took over their studio on the fifth floor from his father, who now lives downstairs in an apartment that contains half the room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed Nancy Spungen, and the couple keeps company with their upstairs neighbors Lola Schnabel and René Ricard. “But what they don’t realize is that all the parts mean something, and some of the people you think are random crazy people are the ones that the artists like to talk to and get that vibe from.”

According to many of the residents, Stanley and David Bard are the only people who understand this alchemy, which is why they’ve waged a boisterous campaign to bring his family back. In the aftermath of Stanley’s ouster, banners reading bring back the bards were stretched across one of the hotel’s balconies, and Ed Hamilton, one of the resident activists, edits a blog, Living With Legends, which gleefully chronicled the foibles of each of the managers the board had installed since Stanley. First there was 26-year-old Glennon Travis from BD Hotels, a “douchebag” whose memos to residents Hamilton mercilessly mocked. Andrew Tilley, a former Hard Rock Hotel manager, lasted less than a year, saying he’d “had enough” after residents allegedly pulled pranks like sending his wife underwear and signing him up for dozens of magazine subscriptions. At an art opening in the hotel’s ballroom, one resident confronted shareholder and hotel vice-president David Elder, bizarrely wearing a mask of Elder’s face.

“They’re a very colorful group,” says BD Hotel’s Born, adding that he’ll bear no grudges if he ends up with the building. “If we are the winning bidders, I’m sure the tenants will be welcome to stay and enjoy it. I’m sure they’ll be very dynamically involved in the process. The idea is to keep the spirit of the building. The intention is not to make the Chelsea anything other than what it is.”

It is certainly true that changes at the Chelsea don’t have a history of panning out. In 2009, for instance, Elder gave David Komurek, a brand consultant with a statement mustache, a lease on a one-bedroom suite in exchange for some rebranding help. Komurek had lots of ideas: He took Elder to the Ace Hotel, where a one-bedroom suite can go for nearly $1,000 a night, and urged the Chelsea to increase its rates. He suggested brand partnerships with people like Andy Spade and Matt Abramcyk from Smith & Mills. But “nothing ever came of it,” Komurek shrugs. Now he finds himself in the same boat as the other residents: waiting to see what happens next.

The Bard acolytes are convinced that if David Bard emerges the victor, many of the building’s problems, including multiple tenant lawsuits, will disappear. “If David Bard were to come here, he could resolve everything with a telephone call,” says Scott Griffin, a theatrical producer. “It’s not like he has some magical power. It’s called experience.” But the pro-Bard faction may be indulging in magical thinking, hoping that Bard will not just go “back to the way things were,” as Notarberardino puts it, but restore the hotel to the ideal state that everyone seems to remember but never actually was: a bohemian Shangri-La where no one ever ages or OD’s or gets a rent increase. With improved light fixtures.

The decision as to who will end up owning the Chelsea could, according to people close to the deal, be made in a matter of days, and should David Bard lose, residents might consider taking advice from Victor Hernandez, who must be the most self-reflective bellhop with a chinstrap beard the world has ever known. “The worries about change, it’s just a feeling of fear,” he says. “You can’t stay in the same place forever. You have to move on.”

In the meantime, stasis. A few days ago, Komurek’s friend Kelsey Margerison, a swimsuit model and artist from California, escorted her next-door neighbor Bettina Grossman, an octogenarian printmaker in sunglasses and with a long mop of graying hair, up to the sixth floor; Grossman had spotted a rabbi with a long white beard, and she needed to meet him. “I’m a special person,” she explained earnestly. “And he is a special person. I can tell.”

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