Volume 76, Number 5 | June 21 - 27 2006

Villager photo by Robert Kreizel

Two residents of 27 Cooper Square have refused to vacate for a hotel project, which is being built around the building, above.

Loft tenants won’t check out to make way for hotel

By David Spett

Poet Hettie Jones — ex-wife of poet Amiri Baraka — is one of two tenants of 27 Cooper Square who have refused to take buyouts from a hotel developer to leave their loft apartments.
A luxury hotel is being planned for Cooper Square between Fifth and Sixth Sts., but the developer’s two building permit requests have been denied and specific details about the hotel are not currently known.

Four buildings — 25, 29, 31 and 33 Cooper Square — have been demolished, but residents of 27 Cooper Square have refused to leave, and the hotel will need to be built around the remaining building.

Peck Moss Hotel Group, the luxury hotel company that owns the property, says in a press release that its hotel “puts Cooper Square on the map.”

The press release states that Peck Moss is planning “a groundbreaking hotel with a truly original concept.” Peck Moss Hotel Group declined to comment for this story, and its publicist, D2 Publicity, sent a press release but did not return several calls requesting more information. An e-mail from Ereka Dunn, co-founder of D2 Publicity, said no further information was available.

Two architectural firms, Perkins Eastman and Leslie E. Robertson Associates, are working together on the hotel’s design.

A permit application for a 21-story, 68,000-square-foot hotel was denied by the Department of Buildings on Nov. 11, 2005, and another application for a much smaller, four-story, 7,000-square-foot hotel was denied on Jan. 25 of this year. D.O.B. said it does not keep further details of rejected applications. It wasn’t clear why the hotel in the second application was one-tenth the size of the one in the previous application.

Residents living nearby expressed disappointment with the proposed hotel, saying it’s another example of East Village gentrification. Adam Burns, who lives at 207 E. Fifth St., directly adjacent to the construction, said “just about everyone” in his building is upset about it.

“A few power brokers are turning New York into a mall,” Burns said. “Where is the Bohemia, where is the opportunity for artistic people and alternative lifestyles?” Burns also said the construction workers working on the project’s foundation were bothering his sleep by starting work at 7 a.m. Seven complaints he phoned in to 311 have accomplished nothing, he said.

Two other residents of E. Fifth St. expressed concerns about the hotel but requested that their names not be published, saying it might anger the developers.

But the two residents of 27 Cooper Square, the building in the middle of the proposed hotel, were more satisfied.

“They’re making every effort to ensure my safety and comfort,” Hettie Jones said of the developers.

Jones, who has lived at 27 Cooper Square for about 40 years, said her status as a loft tenant prevented the developers from forcing her out. The other resident of the building, Katharine Abel, said a developer who owned the site before Peck Moss offered them an apartment in a new building, but “it ended up not working out. They couldn’t even find an apartment so fabulous when they tried to buy us out.”

Jones said several famous artists and musicians have lived in the building, including Hettie’s ex-husband, LeRoi Jones — who later changed his name to Amiri Baraka — as well as Archie Shepp and Elizabeth Murray. Others who have visited the building include jazz musicians Ornette Coleman and the late Don Cherry and the late poet Allen Ginsburg. Jones herself is an author and poet who won a Norma Farber Award in 1998. She has written extensively about black women in music and co-authored Rita Marley’s book, “No Woman, No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley.”

Jones feels her building is a landmark, and she said it has been a stop along literary walking tours since the 1970s. She quoted a Jan. 8 New York Times article by architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, in which he said, “Landmarks are not created by architects. They are fashioned by those who encounter them after they are built.”

The E. Fifth St. Block Association met with Peck Moss Hotel Group on June 19. Block association member Marianne Schaefers said they suggested changes to the hotel plans but she does not know whether the suggestions will be heeded.

Peck Moss intends to submit its third permit application to the Buildings Department next week.

Robert Kreizel contributed to this report

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