Last night, a handful of residents from the Jane Hotel, formerly the Riverview, stood outside the Bowery Hotel to fight against harassment and eviction. In their small but sturdy ranks, while Bowery swells sneered and scoffed at them, as cops threatened to arrest them, they quietly held up signs and passed out fliers that said: "Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson, You may own a fancy hotel, but... You are still slumlords!!! Shame on you!"
They will be protesting again tonight at 7:00 outside the Waverly Inn (see report) and they welcome you to join them.
Goode and MacPherson are the entrepreneurs behind the Waverly Inn, Maritime Hotel, and Bowery Hotel. They bought the 211-room Jane Hotel in January 2008 and immediately began eviction proceedings. First went the transients, the protesters told me, including elderly, physically and mentally disabled, poor, and otherwise less-than-fortunate New Yorkers who made their home at the SRO.
"I asked the hotel staff what was going on," one protester said. "I mean, these guys I knew for 10 years, and they said, 'We can't say anything about it or we'll be fired.' But we knew what was happening. People were being preyed upon."
The permanent tenants, some paying as much as $1,000 a month for a room without a bathroom or kitchen, began to go next. But some have stayed to fight. Today, there are 38 people in the tenants' association, but many are afraid to stand up for themselves. Only 5 showed for the protest last night--mostly artists and musicians. They said, "We know we'll be harassed for this."
One woman showed me a book of photos of hallways under construction with crumbling walls, exposed wires, rats, open jugs of toxic chemicals. "This is how we've been living for the past year. With them banging on our heads all day and night. And do you know what they do? These snooty people tell us, 'Shhh...we have guests.' They tell us to shush!"
Much like the hotels Chelsea and Breslin, the Riverview attracted a clientele of artists and eccentrics, the people who once thrived in New York City. The hotel was originally built in 1908 as The Seaman's Institute for the purpose of housing seamen and later, briefly, gave refuge to the survivors of The Titanic. It is a landmarked building.
In the Observer, the proprietor of Socialista, the hotel's trendy basement club, looked forward to the current renovation, saying, “That hotel has so much potential... They’re going to bring a great crowd to the neighborhood."
The tenants from last night's protest see it much differently. Said one, "It used to be a good place to live. Nothing fancy. Just friendly. Now it's full of assholes. They come in and out of Socialista, screaming 'fucking faggot' at people and peeing on our door."