Volume 74, Number 49 | April 13 - 19 , 2005

Villager photos by Jennifer Weisbord

From top: Joe Butler, at far left, called noise from the Hotel Gansevoort “insidious and unrelenting,” as, from left to right, Elon Kenchington, the hotel’s managing director; Henry Kallan, president of HK Hotels; and Michael Lindenbaum, the hotel’s director of public relations and special events, listened; Meat Market resident Ivy Jeanne Brown was one of 40 neighbors who attended the meeting; a resident made a point.

Only 30 days and 30 nights’ more noise from hotel?

By Albert Amateau

West Village residents who have been complaining about noise that they say sounds like the roar of a jet engine coming from the Hotel Gansevoort in the Gansevoort Market district got a promise last week of relief in 30 days from the hotel managers.

The promise came at a meeting of about 40 neighbors with representatives of elected officials and the hotel officials who gathered on April 6 in the rooftop lounge of the 13-story Hotel Gansevoort, which opened a year ago.

“We have a commitment from a contractor to solve the problem,” said Elon Kenchington, managing director of the 187-room hotel, which has two restaurant/bars, one on the roof and the other on the ground floor.

Most of the noise complaints over the past year have focused on the ground-floor restaurant exhaust system, which has been problematic since the beginning because the contractor installed the wrong fan, said Jeffrey Chodorow, the restaurant operator.

Part of the noise comes from the louvers at the exhaust end of the ductwork and the solution may eventually involve changing the ducts so they lead to the roof instead of the street level, Chodorow said. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to figure this out,” he added.

Chodorow said he had engaged an acoustics consultant who found that the ambient noise on the street in front of the hotel was 63 decibels when the exhaust system was off and 66 decibels when it was on.

But technically sophisticated neighbors, including Michael Bloomberg (no relation to the mayor) whose business is installing similar equipment, said the decibel readings have little to do with the noise neighbors say can be heard two blocks away. “What people are hearing is frequency and it’s very penetrating,” said Bloomberg.

“We’ll give you the 30 days — that’s the first week in May, just in time for my birthday,” Bloomberg quipped.

Jim McQuane, a filmmaker who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, said, “If I were making a film and the sound man told me he heard a noise that I didn’t want, we would fix it. The solution to the problem is doable — that noise can be stopped.”

Joe Butler, a musician who has lived with his family on Horatio St. for 27 years, said the noise from the hotel at 18 Ninth Ave. is “so insidious and unrelenting that it threatens to destroy and disrupt our neighborhood and our quality of life as nothing ever has done since I’ve lived here.”

Nancy Blanford, a resident of 838 Greenwich St. near the corner of Gansevoort St., said there has not been a moment since last summer when residents were not assaulted by the sound, but she went on to say that parties on the rooftop restaurant have been especially noisy, enough to be heard several blocks away.

Michael Lindenbaum, Hotel Gansevoort director of public relations and special events, replied that he would personally respond to future complaints about noisy events when called at 212-660-6724.

Hotel officials acknowledged that a rooftop party at the beginning of last summer sponsored by the fashion designer Calvin Klein had its own sound system and became loud enough to generate neighborhood complaints. But such events are now excluded.

“We refused to have an event for Jay-Z and Beyonce [popular hip-hop artists], a very lucrative event for us,” said Lindenbaum.

Steven Greenberg, former principal in the Gramercy Hotel and a consultant for the Hotel Gansevoort, said that neighbors might be blaming the hotel for noise from other restaurants, lounges and bars in the Gansevoort Market district. Lindenbaum said he would be able to tell neighbors who phone in complaints whether disturbances came from the hotel or elsewhere.

Auto traffic noise was another concern, and hotel officials promised to ask the city Department of Transportation to change traffic light timing to prevent long backups of cars in the neighborhood.

Henry Kallan, president of HK Hotels, which includes Hotel Gansevoort as well as the Elysée on E. 54th St., Giraffe on Park Ave. S., Casablanca on W. 43rd St., Library Hotel on Madison Ave. and 41st St. and the Aria Hotel in Prague, was among the hotel officials at the meeting.

Kate Seely-Smith of City Councilmember Christine Quinn’s staff, as well as aides to Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Senator Tom Duane, were also there. One neighbor, Peter Fenty, praised the hotel, saying that except for the noise complaints, the hotel was a better neighbor than many people expected. “I think you are a first-class operation,” said Fenty.

But one resident told the hotel management, “I’m the neighborhood cynic and I notice that you didn’t have the neighbors in for a meeting until you failed to get your liquor license extension.”

The State Liquor Authority in March denied the hotel’s application for a second cash bar for the rooftop restaurant after elected officials and neighbors testified about loud music, noisy parties and rowdy patrons. It was clear to many neighbors that the testimony was partly driven by feelings that their complaints had been ignored.

The city Department of Environmental Protection has issued violations to Hotel Gansevoort and Ono, the ground-floor restaurant, for the exhaust fan noise. An Environmental Control Board panel, which heard the D.E.P. case three weeks ago, gave the hotel 75 days to correct the problem.

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