At 6:20 on Monday evening, Hawk Alfredson hauled one of his haunting portraits, wrapped in plastic, into the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd Street.
One of the hotel’s many artsy denizens, Mr. Alfredson, a seven-year resident, said he hoped to hang the six-by-five-foot painting alongside the hotel’s already sprawling collection of canvasses, sculptures and other installations, which adorn the halls and stairwells and lend the landmark 12-story Philip Hubert-designed brick building, erected in 1884, its distinctive gallery vibe.
But who’s curating?
For nearly 50 years, Stanley Bard was the guy in charge of fostering and maintaining the hotel’s reputation as, in the words of author Denise LeFrak Calicchio, “a cauldron of creativity.” Yet, one month after the legendary hotelier’s highly publicized ouster, residents and guests alike apparently still need reminding that Mr. Bard is no longer the go-to guy.
“TO PREVENT CONFUSION PLEASE BE ADVISED STANLEY BARD IS NO LONGER THE MANAGING AGENT OF THE CHELSEA HOTEL,” according to a large handwritten sign on an easel behind the check-in counter.
Throughout the evening, the signage served as a constant joke to passersby in the lobby. “We were completely confused until we saw the sign,” said one woman, sarcastically. “I’m still confused!” remarked another. “This place is nuttier than ever,” quipped one gentleman.
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that Mr. Bard, 73, still shows up for work every day. By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, he was already making the rounds, coffee cup in hand, mingling with people in the lobby. Meanwhile, his 41-year-old son, David Bard, manned a computer in the family’s office off the lobby. This, despite the fact that both men technically got fired weeks ago.
The new managers, residents have complained to The Observer, aren’t around all that much. At least not yet. The hotel staff, for the moment, remains the same.
“I don’t even know who the new management is,” noted one resident, who stubbornly refused to accept the recent regime change. “They’ve never introduced themselves to me. I’ve seen some strange faces around the lobby of the hotel, but until I receive an official notification and verification of who these people are, I’m opposed to having any dealings whatsoever with these alleged new managers.”
“I believe in hands-on management—they don’t,” Mr. Bard told The Observer. The hotel’s new management, spearheaded by BD Hotel moguls Richard Born and Ira Drukier, sends over a representative “about an hour and a half every day,” he said, to issue staff directives.
That doesn’t mean, however, that no one is looking over Mr. Bard’s shoulder. In fact, he claimed, he’s now being “spied on” by one of the hotel’s owners, David Elder, who recently moved onto the first floor.
“He follows me around,” Mr. Bard said of Mr. Elder. “If I go upstairs to help someone—say, the light’s broke—he gets upset. If I go and turn the circuit breakers on, he gets upset: ‘You were told to stay out!’”
Mr. Bard has good reason to be suspicious of Mr. Elder. After all, it was he who first challenged Mr. Bard’s controlling interest in the hotel via arbitration and thus triggered the process that ultimately led to the popular manager’s firing in June.