Aby Rosen ruined the Gramercy Park Hotel and got away with it
Madonna, the Rolling Stones and John F. Kennedy slept there. Hunter S. Thompson organized drug orgies in his bedroom. And Humphrey Bogart married his first wife on the rooftop in 1926.
But the Gramercy Park Hotel is now closed, mired in a heated legal battle between two of Manhattan’s biggest real estate titans, and it’s unclear whether it will ever reopen.
âWe have good relations with the [Gramercy Park] hotel and we’re sorry to see the downstairs restaurant closed, âsaid Ben Hartley, executive director of the National Arts Club, located across from the hotel’s private park. The Maialino restaurant was operated by Danny Meyer. A sign on the door said it was “temporarily closed” and referred customers to its Twitter and Instagram pages for updates on when it would reopen.
â12 years ago this weekend, we opened @maialino_nycâ, Meyer wrote in a Tweet of November 12. âToday, we are still waiting for the reopening of the GPH hotel so that we can cook for you again. We miss you too, share the frustration, and can’t wait to be back.
The hotel’s Rose Bar, also a celebrity favorite, is also closed.
âThe Gramercy Park Hotel was a great resource and it’s a shame it is no longer open,â Hartley told The Post. âThe hotel was really known as a creative space.
Insiders accuse real estate mogul Aby Rosen of neglecting a New York City gem in a battle of wills.
But this isn’t the first time that a Rosen property has been plagued by high-profile unrest – it has also sparked controversy at iconic Manhattan buildings, Lever House and Seagram.
âHe’s a Philistine,â a Manhattan art collector told the Post of Rosen, 61. âIt takes landmarks and it ruins them. It takes the soul of branded buildings.
A real estate investor who has known Rosen for decades noted his “tough” tactics and “brash” style in buying and selling real estate in New York City. With the city’s hospitality industry still reeling from the pandemic and competition from AirBnB making it harder to capture huge profits, Rosen is likely trying to pull out of the hospitality business, the investor said.
âAby Rosen is trying to negotiate a better deal for himself,â said the investor who declined to be identified. “If he can’t negotiate better terms for the Gramercy Park Hotel, he doesn’t care about losing the building.”
Through a spokesperson, Rosen co-commented.
Solil Management, which owns the ground lease on the 2 Lexington Ave. property, has taken legal action to evict the hotel, controlled by Rosen’s RFR Realty, for rent of $ 80 million accrued from November 2020 to April 2021. RFR had been leasing the land for $ 5.2 million a year, but stopped making payments during the pandemic – claiming the lease was “worthless” amid the city’s decimated tourism, according to a legal complaint.
On September 30, Judge Robert Reed dismissed the lawsuit against Rosen and RFR, although his other holding company, GPH Ground Tenant LLC, may still be in issue.
As Page Six previously reported, in June 2020 Rosen was posting photos of “him and his wife on Hamptons beach, photos of the interior of his sprawling Southampton mansion filled with modern art in the street named Billionaire Lane and also from the pool to its picturesque spot in St. Barts during the pandemic.
Today, one of the city’s most iconic hotels is in danger of being erased forever.
Built on the site where writer Edith Wharton and architect Sanford White lived, the Renaissance-style hotel opened in 1925. Joseph Kennedy stayed there for months with his family, including 11-year-old JFK before become Ambassador to London in March 1938.
The hotel has long been a celebrity favorite. Bogart married there his first wife, Helen Menken, and Babe Ruth is said to have been a regular at the bar. But it didn’t become a rock-star haunt until 1973, when David Bowie recorded for two weeks.
Bowie’s label at the time, RCA, declined to book him at the more upscale Plaza Hotel because his first tour of the United States had been a losing endeavor, according to Rolling Stone. The British rocker and his stage crew stayed on the third floor of Gramercy Park, turning it into an extended dormitory where cocaine-snorting groupies entered and left the rooms.
The place has become popular with bands like The Clash, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Blondie’s Debbie Harry would have lived there for a while, as did Bono.
It was about the only hotel in town where musicians could order a guitar string from room service or order cocaine “like pepperoni pizza” from doormen and maids, the filmmaker wrote. Max Weissberg, whose grandfather Herbert Weissberg bought the 509-room hotel. in 1958 and directed it until a year before his death in 2003.
Weissberg moved some of his family to the bedrooms, including Max, who would stay there for months upon his return from boarding school in town, the filmmaker said.
After Weissberg’s death, Rosen intervened with his partner and hotelier Ian Schrager to take over the hotel. They hired artist Julian Schnabel to redo the interiors. Seven years later, in 2010, Schrager sold his stake to Rosen, who filled the space with works from his own private art collection, including pieces by Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Among the perks for hotel guests was access to Gramercy Park, the private park across the street that’s, notoriously, accessible only to neighborhood residents.
Rosen, the son of an Auschwitz survivor who arrived in New York City from Germany in 1987, is no stranger to controversy in the real estate world. âI have no fear,â he told New York Magazine in 2008.
Years before acquiring the Gramercy Park Hotel, Rosen’s company negotiated a lease on another iconic Manhattan building – the iconic Lever House skyscraper on Park Avenue. But he was in default for so long that the building was threatened with foreclosure.
Rosen aroused the ire of environmentalists when he took over the Seagram Building, instituting design changes in the iconic Four Seasons restaurant. In 2014, he insisted on getting rid of a 20-by-22-foot Picasso tapestry he called a âschmatteâ that had hung in the restaurant for over 50 years. Rosen wanted to put “Le Tricorne” in a storage to modify the wall behind. After a bitter legal battle at the New York State Supreme Court, the tapestry was transferred to the New York Historical Society, where it is on display.
RFR also ceased to maintain the hotel property, which has “deteriorated to a shocking degree”, according to court documents. The facade needs city-ordered works and the hotel’s mechanical systems are “badly repaired”. Elevators need maintenance and HVAC equipment is “patched with duct tape,” according to court documents.
On top of that, Rosen, who tried to renegotiate the long-term lease in 2019, removed the hotel’s art collection and stopped paying taxes. Rosen’s businesses owe nearly $ 2 million in municipal taxes, according to public records.
Rosen’s companies – RFR and GBH – that run the hotel received $ 6.3 million in loans from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program in 2020 and 2021, according to court documents.
“Rosen chose not to operate the Gramercy Park Hotel and kept it closed to paying customers,” court documents say, which also allege Rosen hosted her mother in a three-bedroom suite at the hotel as well as employees of its RFR Realty. business during the pandemic. The rental agreement specifically requires the building to be managed as a “first-class hotel,” according to court documents.
Famous fans of the old Gramercy Park Hotel:
For Solil, this is part of what they describe as Rosen’s tough tactic to put economic pressure on them to agree to his demands, including converting the hotel into condos or replacing the lease “with a new one.” radically different agreement â.
Rosen’s attorneys tried to close the case and won a victory last month when a judge ruled he was not personally responsible for the hotel’s ground lease. He declined to comment through a spokesperson last week.
Residents of Gramercy Park, many of whom told the Post they had no idea of ââthe prolonged legal wrangling over the hotel, were eager to reopen it.
âA lot of people have used the spa and the other facilities,â said a doorman in the condominium adjacent to 50 Gramercy Park North. The hotel also featured an upscale David Barton fitness center and many residents were regulars to Maialino, he said.
“They are quite upset that the hotel is still closed.”