At Hotel Chelsea, Signs of Village Denizens Vanish While Patti Smith Returns

Gallery PatronRachel Citron A 2007 exhibition at Milk Studios.

Residents who are fighting eviction from the the Hotel Chelsea were baffled by an invitation they received to a Thursday evening concert by Patti Smith in the hotel’s ground-floor ballroom. Commenters on Living With Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog wondered whether the writer and musician, who recounted her time as a resident of the hotel in her 2010 memoir “Just Kids,” was being paid by Joseph Chetrit, the real estate investor who recently purchased the landmark 23rd Street building and is renovating its interior. Today, the songstress, in a statement reprinted by the blog, said she was not being compensated for the performance, which was her idea.

“My allegiance is to the Hotel itself,” she wrote, “and I have done nothing to tarnish it. It is very difficult for me to embrace change, but my great hope is to witness the Hotel Chelsea find a strong and positive place in the twenty-first century.”

The blog still insists that the singer cancel her concert.

It’s just the most recent event involving an East Village character that evinces a fabled bohemian haunt in flux. Controversy also surrounds the removal of “Dutch Masters” and other works of art from the hotel’s lobby. The iconic image of a cigar box, which had greeted guests since the early 1990s, was painted by Larry Rivers, the late artist, musician, actor, filmmaker, and East Village resident (in 1996, he sold a loft that he owned at 4o4 East 14th Street to Allen Ginsberg.) As the Daily News recently reported, lawyers for the Larry Rivers Foundation claim the painting was merely on loan to the hotel and was never its property. Longtime hotel manager Stanley Bard was known to accept artwork by guests who were unable to pay their bills.

Meanwhile, on his Living With Legends blog, Chelsea Hotel resident Ed Hamilton posts photos of the open-walled remains of Herbert Huncke’s room, where many came to listen to the Beat fixture recount tales in his inimitable style. Legend has it that the Grateful Dead paid Mr. Huncke’s rent. Mr. Hamilton writes, “He could have never afforded to live in NYC if the Chetrits of the world had had their way.”