Plenty of Gloom at the Hotel Chelsea

If only Mr. Bard were still around. “Stanley was always good to me,” she said. “I know that he would’ve let me stay there. Once Stanley liked you, you were part of the crew, so to speak.”

Ms. Rodriguez isn’t the only one still pining for Mr. Bard, who has kept a rather low profile since his highly publicized ouster last June.

The charismatic former manager had been scheduled to make a rare public appearance on April 3, joining authors Ed Hamilton and Sherill Tippins for a panel discussion about the hotel’s illustrious history at the Museum of the City of New York. But a museum official indicated this week that Mr. Bard had abruptly backed out of the event.

Nor is he expected to attend an upcoming photography exhibit in May celebrating the hotel’s 125th anniversary. The event is being co-curated by rival hotel heir Mr. Elder, whose 2005 lawsuit ultimately culminated in Mr. Bard’s overthrow.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be there,” said artist Susan Olmetti, who is nonetheless submitting a framed portrait of Mr. Bard, taken by photographer Lothar Troeller, for the show, “but I want his mug shot to be there.”

Banners reading “Bring Back the Bards” continue to hang from curator Arthur Nash’s balcony overlooking West 23rd Street. Mr. Nash has his gripes with the new management, too, withholding rent amid months of “ear-busting construction noise” as well as a “major plumbing explosion” this past November, according to his court complaint. He’s also countersuing for alleged overcharges in his monthly rent.

“All of this that’s going on is so ironic in a historic sense,” said the writer Ms. Tippins, author of the forthcoming book Dream Palace: The Extraordinary Life of the Chelsea Hotel (Houghton Mifflin, 2009). She noted that the landmark lodge, built in 1883, was conceived “during the robber baron era that’s much like this one. Housing was unaffordable and the middle class was leaving the city.”

French architect and aspiring utopian Philip Hubert “decided to make a building in which different classes of New Yorkers could live together so some kind of culture could be created,” said Ms. Tippins. “He thought you could design buildings that could influence human behavior. … It’s so amazing to me that it ended up being this artist hotel, because it was intended to be that in the beginning.

“Now there’s this struggle to keep it going,” she said. “Is it going to be destroyed? So many of the people who live there think it’ll all work out because it always does at the Chelsea. It will be interesting to see if it truly does.”

Plenty of Gloom at the Hotel Chelsea