Metrofocus: July 28, 2022

Traffic congestion in New York City has been a problem for decades.  According to an annual study by Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the New York metro area now ranks number one in the entire country when it comes to traffic – surpassing even Los Angeles for the first time in almost 40 years.  In 2019, after decades of political obstruction, state lawmakers finally passed congestion pricing legislation affecting Manhattan below 60th street, but that plan is now on hold.  What exactly is happening with congestion pricing?  Is there a solution to easing the city’s gridlock problem?  Joining us tonight to discuss the issue is Sam Schwartz, also known as “Gridlock Sam”, who is a former New York City Traffic Commissioner and an expert in traffic and infrastructure.

The legendary Chelsea Hotel, an icon of 1960s counterculture and a haven for famous artists and intellectuals including Patti Smith, Janis Joplin and the superstars of Warhol’s Factory, closed its doors to new guests in 2011 to begin an over 10 year renovation process converting the famous old hotel to a modern, luxury building.  Dozens of long-term residents, most in their later years, refused to move out during the renovation and have lived amidst the scaffolding and constant construction for close to a decade.  A new documentary, “Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel,” executive produced by Martin Scorsese, tells the story of the iconic Chelsea Hotel and those residents who refused to leave.  Joining us to discuss the film are: co-director Maya Duverdier; and Skye Ferrante, who is a past resident of the Chelsea Hotel.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, GRIDLOCK CITY.

NEW YORK TOPS THE NATION FOR THE WORST TRAFFIC, BUT WILL CONGESTION PRICING SOLVE OUR RUSH HOUR WOES?

WE GO INSIDE THE ICONIC CHELSEA HOTEL TO MEET THE ARTIST WHO REFUSED TO MOVE OUT AS IT BECAME AN ACTIVE CONSTRUCTION SITE.

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪ RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

TRAFFIC IN NEW YORK CITY HAS BEEN AN INTRACTABLE PROBLEM FOR DECADES AND DESPITE THE CITY WAS LOCKED DOWN FOR A YEAR, GIVING US EERIE IMAGES OF EMPTY STREETS IN TIMES SQUARE, CONGESTION IS BACK.

IN FACT, IF ANYTHING, IT SEEMS TO PANDEMIC HAS MADE THE PROBLEM WORSE.

ACCORDING TO AN ANNUAL STUDY BY TEXAS A&M, THE NEW YORK METRO AREA NOW RANKS NUMBER ONE IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY WHEN IT COMES TO TRAFFIC, SURPASSING EVEN LOS ANGELES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ALMOST 40 YEARS.

IN 2019, AFTER DECADES OF POLITICAL OBSTRUCTION, STATE LAWMAKERS FINALLY PASSED CONGESTION PRICING LEGISLATION BELOW 50th STREET, BUT THAT PLAN IS ON HOLD.

TO JOIN US TO TALK ABOUT CONGESTION PRICING AND TALK ABOUT THE GATEWAY PROJECT IS SAM SCHWARTZ, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS GRIDLOCK SAM.

SAM IS A FORMER NEW YORK CITY TRAFFIC COMMISSIONER, EXPERT IN NEW YORK INFRASTRUCTURE AND ONE OF THE EARLIEST AND GLOBAL PROPONENTS OF CONGESTION PRICING.

GOOD TO BE HERE.

FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW WHY YOU'RE GRIDLOCK SAM, YOU COINED THAT TERM.

I WAS READING A SPANISH ARTICLE THAT USED THAT TERM.

YOU ARE INTERNATIONAL.

ANY WAY, SAM, FIRST OF ALL, COULD YOU GIVE US A QUICK CONGESTION OF CONGESTION PRICING?

WHAT IS IT AND WHY DO YOU BELIEVE, AS UP FOR DECADES, THAT NEW YORK CITY NEEDS IT?

A CONGESTION PRICING PLAN THAT WAS PASSED BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE INVOLVES THE AREA OF MANHATTAN SOUTH OF 60th STREET.

THERE ARE VERY FEW DETAILS.

IT JUST MEANS ANY MOTOR VEHICLE ENTERING THAT AREA OF MANHATTAN SOUTH OF 60th STREET WILL BE CHARGED.

HOW MUCH, WE DON'T KNOW.

WE'RE WAITING FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT.

WE KNOW IF YOU COME ACROSS SOME OF THE BRIDGES YOU ALREADY PAY A TOLL.

WILL YOU GET THAT BACK OR GET SOME KIND OF REBATE?

WE DON'T KNOW THAT.

WE ALSO KNOW THAT IF YOU'RE TAKING THE FDR DRIVE OR THE WESTSIDE HIGHWAY YOU WILL BE EXCLUDED IF IT'S USED AS A THROUGH TRIP, MEANING YOU'RE COMING DOWN THE HENRY HUDSON PARKWAY AND TAKING THE WEST SIDE HIGHWAY TOWARD THE BATTERY TO HOME.

YOU WON'T BE CHARGED.

FOR THOSE PEOPLE WITH INCOME OF $60,000 OR LESS, THEY WON'T BE CHARGED IF THEY HAVE TRIPS WITHIN THE CONGESTION ZONE.

AND THERE MAY BE SOME OTHER FEATURES SUCH AS TIME OF DAY, DAY OF WEEK, THAT GET ADD.

ONCE WE KNOW THE DETAILS.

BUT WE DON'T HAVE VERY MANY DETAILS BEYOND THAT.

SO, YOU KNOW, THE TEXAS A&M STUDY, I MEAN, I KNEW IT BEFORE IT CAME OUT.

I LIVE IN BROOKLYN.

THE CONGESTION IS EVERYWHERE, NOT JUST IN MANHATTAN.

LET ME ASK YOU, TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU BELIEVE THE DELIVERY TRUCKS, CARS AND BIKES THAT PROLIFERATED AT THE HEIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC AND APPEAR TO HAVE BECOME A PERMANENT FEATURE AND THE OUTDOOR DINING THAT HAS ALSO APPEARED TO HAVE BECOME A PERMANENT FEATURE, TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU THINK THEY'VE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS CONGESTION?

EVERYTHING HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE CONGESTION.

IT'S ALSO THIS UNFOUNDED FEAR OF RIDING TRANSIT, THAT YOU'RE MORE LIKELY TO CONTRACT THE VIRUS, EVEN THOUGH STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT THERE'S NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT.

AND MANY CAR COMMUNITIES, WITH NO TRANSIT, HAVE SUFFERED GREATLY.

SO WE ALSO HAVE THIS SITUATION WHERE PEOPLE AREN'T TAKING TRANSIT AND DRIVING, SO CAR DRIVING, AUTOMOBILE DRIVING IS AT 100% NOW.

BUT TRUCKS ARE AT 110% TO 113% OF WHAT THEY WERE PREPANDEMIC, AND EACH TRUCK, FROM A TRAFFIC ENGINEER'S POINT OF VIEW, COUNTS AS TWO TO THREE TIMES ITS IMPACT OF A PASSENGER CAR ON TRAFFIC.

SO 10% MORE TRUCKS COULD BE 20% TO 30% MORE TRAFFIC IN EQUIVALENCY.

IF YOU THINK TRAFFIC IS WORSE THAN EVER, YOU'RE RIGHT, IT IS WORSE THAN EVER.

A LOT HAS TO DO WITH OUR HABITS.

WE THINK WE HAVE ROOM SERVICE NOW, AND EVERY DWELLING IN NEW YORK CITY.

WE CAN JUST GO ONLINE, ORDER FOOD, ORDER GOODS, NOT HAVING TO GO TO THE STORE, AND A TRUCK WILL COME AND DELIVER THAT.

SO WE'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

SO, YOU KNOW, AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, YOU HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR SOME SORT OF CONGESTION PRICING SINCE THE LINDSEY ADMINISTRATION, BUT ALL ATTEMPTS TO IMPLEMENT CONGESTION PRICING OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS FAILED UNTIL-PASSED IN ALBANY IN APRIL OF 2019.

BUT OBVIOUSLY HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED YET.

DURING THE GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE, GOVERNOR HOCHUL SAID, QUOTE, NOW IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME FOR CONGESTION PRICING AND, QUOTE, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE EX YEAR UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

WHY?

WHY THE HOLD UP?

RAFAEL, AS YOU POINT OUT, I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH CONGESTION PRICING SINCE THE LINDSEY ADMINISTRATION, AND WE THOUGHT WE HAD IT BACK THEN AND AN ACT OF CONGRESS STOPPED IT.

EVERY TIME OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS, PEOPLE HAVE SAID, NOW IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME.

PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING IN CONGESTION, OUR TRANSIT SYSTEM NEEDS STABLE FORM OF REVENUE, AND CONGESTION PRICING ADDRESSES BOTH OF THEM.

I THINK THE GOVERNOR IS IN AN ELECTION BATTLE.

THIS IS AN ELECTION YEAR.

AND I BELIEVE POLITICS ARE BEHIND STATEMENTS LIKE THAT BECAUSE IT'S VERY EASY TO ATTACK CONGESTION PRICING AS A POPULIST ISSUE, AND SAYING, WHO WANTS TO PAY MORE AS OPPOSED TO, WHAT ARE THE BENEFIT OF CONGESTION PRICE?

THE OTHER IS THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DID NOT TELL THE MTA, UNTIL THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION, WHAT TYPE OF ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY IT WOULD LIKE TO SEE OR REQUIRE.

SO THE -- FINALLY THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SAID, IT'S AN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT, WHICH IS LESS ONEROUS THAN AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT, BUT THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION,S THAT NEVER SEEN CONGESTION PRICING BEFORE, HAD OVER 400 QUESTIONS POSED TO THE MTA.

SO WHAT IS HOLDING UP THAT PROJECT THAT OFFERS $15 MILLION TO THE TRANSIT SYSTEM?

A LOT OF BUREAUCRACY, A LOT OF PAPER WORK, A LOT OF NEEDLESS CALCULATIONS OF HOW THIS MIGHT AFFECT SOMEBODY 50 MILES AWAY FROM NEW YORK CITY.

THIS IS AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND PROGRAM.

IT'S WHAT THE EPA WAS SET UP TO DO, AND YET THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION IS TAKING A DIFFERENT TACT.

BUT SAM, AS YOU SAID, IT'S JUST POLITICS AND IT'S AN ELECTION YEAR, AND THAT WOULDN'T MATTER IF IT WAS WILDLY POPULAR, BUT IT ISN'T WILDLY POPULAR, AT LEAST AMONG ALL NEW YORKERS, AND THAT IS BECAUSE OF THE CRITICISM, THE MOST STRIKING CRITICISM THAT'S LASTED FOR ALL THESE DECADES, WHICH IS THAT IN EFFECT CONGESTION PRICING IS A REGRESSIVE TAX HITTING THE OUTER BOROUGH WORKERS WHO HAVE TO DRIVE TO NEW YORK TO MAKE THEIR LIVING HARDEST.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE ALREADY PAYING IT.

WE HAVE FORMS OF CONGESTION PRICING.

EVERY SINGLE MOTOR VEHICLE ENTRY FROM NEW JERSEY, PEOPLE ARE CHARGE.

THEY HAVE BEEN CHARGED FOR NEARLY 100 YEARS THEY WERE CHARGED A TOLL.

BRIDGES WERE ALL BUILT WITH TOLES IN MAYOR GAYNOR IN 191 REMOVED THEM.

EVERY ENTRY POINT INTO STATEN ISLAND ALREADY HAS TOLES.

AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED SOME OF THE TOLLS ARE IN THE WRONG PLACE.

THE MANHATTAN CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT IS SUFFERING.

IF YOU'RE A DRIVER, YOUR HEALTH IS BEING IMPAIRED BY THE FUMES, BY THE TIME IT'S TAKING YOU.

YOU'RE LOSING MONEY BECAUSE DELIVERIES TAKE A LOT LONGER FOR YOU TO GET TO YOUR DESTINATION TAKES LONGER.

SO IT'S IN EVERYONE'S INTEREST TO TRY TO RESOLVE CONGESTION, AND ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO RESOLVE CONGESTION IS GET MORE PEOPLE UNDERGROUND, AND THAT'S WHAT CONGESTION PRICING DOES.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT.

YOU KNOW, YOU SAID THAT IT'S NOT ACCURATE, IT'S NOT REAL FOR PEOPLE TO FEAR THE SUBWAY BECAUSE OF COVID, BUT I THINK THAT THE REASON PEOPLE ARE FEARING THE SUBWAY IS LESS TO DO WITH COVID AND MORE TO DO WITH CRIME.

CAN YOU, REGARDLESS OF THE CONGESTION ABOVE GROUND, CAN YOU REALLY GET RIDERSHIP BACK, WHICH IS STILL ABOUT 60% OF WHAT IT WAS, AT LEAST IN THE DISTRICT AREAS OF MANHATTAN.

CAN YOU GET IT BACK TO PRECOVID LEVELS WITHOUT THE CITY TAKING CONTROL OF CRIME BELOW GROUND?

YEAH, OBVIOUSLY THE CITY HAS TO ADDRESS CRIME, BUT I'M A LONG-TERM NEW YORKER, STARTING OUT IN BROWNSVILLE, BROOKLYN, IN THE '40s, AND I SAW THE CITY GOING DOWNHILL FOR MANY YEARS.

THE SUBWAY SYSTEM OF THE '70s WAS IN AWFUL SHAPE, AND THERE WAS PLENTY OF CRIME, AND NEW YORKERS ULTIMATELY CAME BACK TO THE TRANSIT SYSTEM.

THEY WILL.

THERE WILL BE A LASTING EFFECT FROM BOTH THE CRIME, WHICH IS NOT JUST BELOW GROUND.

IT'S ABOVE GROUND.

BUT WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS ON THE 'A' TRAIN, IT COULD BE IN THE ROCKAWAYS.

PEOPLE IN BROOKLYN WILL SAY, THAT'S MY TRAIN.

IN THE BRONX, IT'S MY TRAIN.

SO IT'S DIFFERENT THAN IF AN ABOVE GROUND INCIDENT OCCURRED.

HE'S SAYING WE'VE GOT TO GET A HANDLE ON CRIME.

WE HAVE ABOUT THREE MINUTES LEFT.

I'VE GOT TO TURN TO THE GATEWAY PROJECT.

FIRST OF ALL, REALLY QUICKLY, TELL US WHAT THE GATEWAY PROJECT IS.

AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, IT'S MAKING HEADLINES LATELY.

WHAT HEADLINES?

THE GATEWAY PROJECT DEALS WITH THE TWO TUNNELS THAT WE HAVE FOR TRANSIT COMING IN FROM NEW JERSEY TO NEW YORK, AND THAT MEANS GOING UP AND DOWN THE EAST COAST, THE AMTRAK LINES.

THOSE TUNNELS ARE OVER 110 YEARS OLD.

BY THE TIME WE GET ANY IMPROVEMENT THEY'LL BE 130 YEARS OLD, AND THEY'RE SINGLE TRACK TUNNELS, AND WE'RE RELYING ON THEM TO TAKE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE INTO MANHATTAN DAILY.

THIS WOULD DOUBLE THE TUNNEL CAPACITY.

IT WOULD ADD TRACKS AT PENN STATION.

IT WOULD MAKE CONNECTIONS TO PENN STATION COULD CONNECT TO METRO NORTH AND BEYOND.

THE HEADLINES THAT IT MADE WERE THE GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY AND GOVERNOR HOCHUL AGREED THEY WOULD SPLIT THE COST FOR THE PRELIMINARY STEPS OF THE PLAN.

BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE SAYING, WAIT A MINUTE, THIS SERVES THE COMMUTERS OF NEW JERSEY.

WHY SHOULD WE PAY HALF?

FIRST OF ALL, IT SERVES AMTRAK.

ALL OF US, EVEN IF WE'RE NEW YORKERS, WE BENEFIT BY HAVING AN AMTRAK THAT WILL TAKE US TO WASHINGTON, D.C. AND OTHER POINTS SOUTH -- PHILADELPHIA.

WE ALSO BENEFIT FROM PEOPLE THAT COME INTO THE AREA FROM NEW JERSEY.

WE'RE A REGION, AND WE SHOULDN'T LOOK AT THESE ARTIFICIAL BOUNDARIES OF THE FIVE BOROUGHS AND SAY, LET'S ONLY CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN THE FIVE BOROUGHS.

WE NEW YORKERS BENEFIT BY HAVING THOSE PEOPLE IN NEW JERSEY GET HERE BY TRANSIT AS OPPOSED TO DRIVING --

RIGHT, IT WILL HELP CONGESTION, OF COURSE.

SO FINAL QUESTION, GIVE ME PREDICTIONS -- WILL CONGESTION PRICING BE IMPLEMENTED NEXT YEAR?

IF NOT, WHEN?

AND WILL THE GATEWAY PROJECT GET OFF THE GROUND IN QUICKLY.

CONGESTION PRICING WILL HAVE TO BE IMPLEMENT IN THE 2023, BECAUSE 2024 IS ANOTHER STATE ELECTION YEAR.

AND GATEWAY IS OFF AND RUNNING.

IF WE HAVE A CHANGE IN ADMINISTRATION IN WASHINGTON IT COULD BE HELD UP AGAIN.

OKAY.

WELL, SAM, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO END IT THERE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH AS ALWAYS.

GREAT TO TALK TO YOU.

THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

YOU'RE QUITE WELCOME, RAFAEL.

GOOD TO BE HERE.

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THE CHELSEA HOTEL HAS LONG BEEN ONE OF NEW YORK CITY'S CULTURAL HUBS.

FOR YEARS, ARTISTS, MUSICIANS, WRITERS AND OTHER ECCENTRIC NEW YORKERS LIVED, WORKED, AND SOCIALIZED THERE.

HOWEVER, IN 2011, THE CHELSEA HOTEL CLOSED ITS DOORS TO GUESTS AND BEGAN A MORE THAN 10-YEARLONG RENOVATION PROCESS THAT FORCED MANY TENANTS OUT.

SOME, HOWEVER, STAYED BEHIND, CHOOSING TO LIVE AMONGST THE CONSTRUCTION RATHER THAN LEAVE THE RICH CULTURAL LEGACY OF THE CHELSEA BEHIND.

A NEW DOCUMENTARY EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BUY MARTIN SCORSESE CALLED 'DREAMING WALLS', TELLS THE STORY OF THE HOLDOUTS WHO REFUSED TO MOVE AND OF THE HOTELS STORIED PAST.

HERE'S A QUICK PREVIEW.

THE CHELSEA RIGHT NOW IS A KIND OF -- I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU WOULD SAY -- HOLDOUTS.

PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED HERE FOR MANY YEARS AND FOR WHATEVER REASON -- WHATEVER REASON, HARD TO IMAGINE -- WANT TO CONTINUE TO LIVE HERE.

THERE'S NOT NECESSARILY ANY STRONG CONNECTION BETWEEN PEOPLE, BUT EACH HAVE THEIR REASON FOR WANTING TO STAY.

THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE WHO REALLY ARE THE REMNANTS OF ANOTHER TIME IN NEW YORK.

WHEN MANHATTAN WAS A BOHEMIAN AND AVANT-GARDE CENTER OF ACTIVITY.

WHEN THE ART WORLD WAS REALLY LIVELY AND VIBRANT AND JUICY AND ART WAS BEING MADE HERE IN MANHATTAN.

NOW I THINK THAT TIME IS GONE.

AND JOINING ME NOW TO DISCUSS THIS FASCINATING NEW DOCUMENTARY, WHICH IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS AND ON STREAMING SERVICES IS MAYA DUVERDE AND SKY, AN ARTIST AND FORMER RESIDENT OF THE CHELSEA HOTEL.

WELCOME YOU BOTH TO 'METROFOCUS.'

WELCOME.

THANK YOU.

, SO MAYA, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND JUST ASK, WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS HOTEL THAT DREW YOU?

ITS STORY AND THE IDEA OF MAKING A FILM.

FIRST OF ALL, WE HAD THIS HOTEL IN MIND MORE THAN TEN YEARS WHEN I OFFERED HER THE FAMOUS BOOK WHEN WE WERE YOUNGER.

SO I CAN SAY AS YOUNG ARTISTS, YOUNG WOMEN, WE GREW UP WITH THIS MYTHOLOGY IN MIND.

BUT I GUESS CHANCE LED US TO THE REAL CHELSEA.

WHEN WE WERE -- FOUR YEARS AGO WITH EMILY, WE WERE IN NEW YORK AND SHE WAS SHOWING HER LAST FEATURE FILM IN TRIBECA, AND THE CINEMA WAS IN THE SAME STREET AS THE HOTEL.

SO WE JUST BUMPED INTO THE HOTEL.

WE RECOGNIZE IT OF COURSE.

BUT WHEN WE SAW THAT THERE WAS SCAFFOLDING, WE WERE VERY CURIOUS, SO WE DECIDED TO ENTER, AS I GUESS EVERY TOURIST WOULD HAVE DONE, AND OUR CHANCE WAS THAT INSTEAD OF BEING KICKED OUT BY THE PERSON -- WOMAN -- THE CHOREOGRAPHER, AND SHE STARTED TO TALK TO US, AND WE GOTTEN WELL WITH EACH OTHER.

THEN WE INVITED HER TO SEE EMILY'S MOVE, AND THEN SHE INVITED US BACK IN THE ROOM, AND THAT WAS THE REAL ENTRANCE IN THE CHELSEA.

THEN WE UNDERSTOOD THE WHOLE SITUATION, THE WORK AND THE WHOLE STORY THAT YOU KNOW.

I'M ALWAYS FASCINATED BY THE TITLES ARTISTS CHOOSE FOR THEIR WORK.

TELL ME ABOUT 'DREAMING WALLS'. WHAT'S THAT MEAN?

YOU KNOW, WHEN WE ENTERED FOR THE FIRST TIME WORK SAW THE ACTUAL WALLS TOTALLY DECREPE IT, AND THE HOTEL WAS LIKE A BODY, YOU KNOW, ALIVE, ALMOST BREATHING.

AND WE HAD THIS VERY STRONG IMAGE OF WALLS BEING -- YEAH, BREATHING, BEING LIVING, AND BEING MAYBE DREAMING, AND REALLY FULL OF ALL THE DREAMS, THE ARTISTIC DREAMS AND ALL THE PIECE THAT WERE CREATED MAYBE IN THIS PLACE.

SO WE HAD IN MIND THAT THIS PLACE WAS A KIND OF PROTECTION INSIDE THESE WALLS, ALL THESE CREATIONS AND DREAMS.

OKAY.

WELL, SKY, TELL ME ABOUT YOUR HISTORY WITH THE HOTEL.

WHAT'S YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH IT?

WELL, TO BEGIN, I'M NOT A TENANT OR A HOLDOUT AS THEY'RE REFERRED TO BY THE DIRECTORS.

I'M AN ARTIST PASSING THROUGH.

I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF RESIDING THERE FOR A FEW YEARS, ALMOST TWO YEARS.

BUT THE CHELSEA STILL FASCINATES ME.

I'M GLAD THAT I HAD MY CHELSEA PERIOD AND I LEFT, BECAUSE I CAN LOOK BACK ON IT WITH A DIFFERENT SENSIBILITY.

AS AN ARTIST, AS A SCULPTOR, I TEND TO SCULPT PEOPLE THAT INTEREST ME AND I'M A STORY JUNKY, SO I WRITE ABOUT PEOPLE I SCULPT.

I FOUND THE CHELSEA PEOPLE TO BE A MAGNET.

I HAD A STRANGE APPEARANCE IN MY ROOM ON THE FOURTH FLOOR.

LATER LIVED ON THE SIXTH FLOOR.

THE MODELS THAT WOULD COME TO SIT FOR ME, THEY WERE ARRIVING WITH A PREWRITTEN SCRIPT IN THEIR HEAD, ALMOST IN COSTUME, SOMETIMES IN COSTUME BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO LEAVE A STORY IN THE CHELSEA HOTEL.

AND I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING AT FIRST.

I THOUGHT IT WAS A LITTLE ODD.

THERE'S A FORMATIVE ELEMENT TO THESE -- TO THEIR ARRIVAL.

AND THEN AS I UNDERSTOOD, THEY'RE COMING FOR THE HOTEL AS MUCH, IF NOT MORE, THAN FOR ME.

I BEGAN PERFORMING MYSELF, PERFORMING THE MAKING OF ART.

AND I WOULD CREATE AN EXPERIENCE FOR THE PORTRAIT SITTER OR THE CLIENT AND COOK FOR THEM.

AND IT JUST BECAME MORE OF A PERFORMANCE BECAUSE THE CHELSEA BECAME THE STAGE.

IT WAS LIKE 'THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE,' THE CHELSEA IS THE CANVAS.

IT WAS DIRECTING.

AND I THINK HAD I STAYED, THOUGH THAT WASN'T EVER REALLY AN OPTION, HAD I STAYED I WOULD HAVE BECOME PART OF THE FURNITURE, AND THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE RESIDENTS THAT STAY THERE A LONG TIME.

IN MY OPINION.

I THINK THE GHOSTS OF THE LIVING.

AND IT'S LIKE THE PICTURE FRAME THAT OUTSHINES THE PAINTING IN IT.

THE CHELSEA HAS AN EGO OF ITS OWN, BUT IT IS A STORY MAGNET, AND THAT REALLY DREW ME TO THE PLACE.

I PRODUCED OVER 200 PORTRAITS, SCULPTURES WHILE I WAS THERE.

I WAS ABLE TO WORK WELL.

FOR THE RECORD, THERE ARE NO GHOSTS, BUT THERE WERE A LOT OF MICE.

I MUST HAVE -- EVERY SINGLE TRAP I PUT OUT ENDED UP WITH A MOUSE AT ONE POINT BECAUSE OF ALL THE CONSTRUCTION THAT WAS GOING ON.

AT ONE POINT MY MODELS TYPICALLY POSE NUDE, WERE QUITE COLD BECAUSE THERE WAS NO HEAT SOME LOT OF SPACE HEATERS AROUND TO KEEP THEM WARM.

AS IT HAPPEN, I OFTEN WORK WITH NUDES BECAUSE NAKED PEOPLE TALK AND THEY TELL ME STORIES AND I WRITE THEM DOWN.

SO AGAIN, SCULPTURE TO WRITING AND THE HOTEL WAS JUST INVITING.

WELL, THAT'S SO -- THAT'S ALL SO FASCINATING, BECAUSE THE WAY YOU TALK ABOUT IT, YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHELSEA AS HAVING ITS OWN PERSONHOOD, AND I'VE HEARD FROM A LOT OF OTHER CREATIVES THAT A SPACE, A PHYSICAL OBJECT, PERHAPS, THE REST OF US MIGHT WALK PAST, CAN HOLD ENERGY FROM PAST EXPERIENCES.

I'M WONDERING -- IS THAT THE CASE?

BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT'S SOUNDING LIKE IS THE CHELSEA WAS ITS OWN INDIVIDUAL.

ABSOLUTELY, IT HAS ITS OWN EGO.

I THINK WE IMBUE IT WITH THAT EGO AND ENERGY BECAUSE WE'RE COMING -- WE THE ANYONE WHO PASSES THROUGH THE CHELSEA -- WE'RE COMING WITH OUR OWN NOSTALGIA, SENSE OF IT.

AS I HAVE BEEN INTERVIEWING PEOPLE THAT SEE THE FILM, IF THEY KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE CHELSEA, THEY MAY HAVE SOME CRITICISMS.

OH, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN LONGER.

OR I WISH -- WE TALKED ABOUT THESE MUSICIANS THAT LIVED THERE.

BECAUSE THEY'RE COMPETING WITH THE MYTHOLOGY THEY ALREADY HAVE.

BUT PEOPLE THAT HAVEN'T SEEN IT THINK, WOW, THIS IS AMAZING.

LIKE LAST NIGHT I SAW IT AT THE I 3 THEERT, THEATER, 6:30 SHOW, AND PEOPLE APPLAUDED.

I KNEW THAT PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE CHELSEA AS I WAS TALKING TO THEM.

THIS WAS A NEW STORY FOR THEM.

I CAN'T SPEAK MUCH ABOUT THE CURRENT SITUATION, BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE -- I'M REALLY JUST THE ARTIST PASSING THROUGH, SO I DON'T HAVE MUCH THE SAY ABOUT THE CONFLICT.

BUT MAYA MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING THE SAY.

MAYA, I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU, FIRST A SIMILAR QUESTION, JUST ABOUT WORKING WITH CHELSEA AS A CHARACTER MORE THAN JUST A BACKDROP, BUT A LIVING BREATHING ENTITY THAT WAS A BIG PART OFFURE FILM.

YEAH.

YEAH, THAT'S TRUE.

THE CHELSEA IS A BIG MYTH, BUT I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE FEELING YOU HAVE WHEN YOU ENTER IS NOT A MYTH.

THERE IS THIS VERY STRONG ENERGY THAT SOMETIMES CAN ALSO FEEL A LITTLE BIT, YOU KNOW -- I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU SAY IN ENGLISH, BUT YOU CAN'T BREATHE ANYMORE.

AND I THINK AT THE BEGINNING WE WANTED TO STAY THE MORE WE COULD IN THE CHELSEA, AND WE TRIED TO ALSO LIVE IN NEW YORK, BE CLOSE TO THE PLACE.

BUT IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE FOR A LOT OF QUESTIONS.

BUT AT THE END I THINK IT WAS EVEN BETTER TO BE ABLE TO GO BACK AND FORTH TO ALSO HAVE A KIND OF DISTANCE OF WHAT WE WERE SEEING AND LIVING.

BECAUSE I GUESS THIS PLACE IS -- PLACE THAT GIVE YOU STRENGTH, BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO, AGAIN, A LITTLE BIT -- CAN -- IT'S A GOOD VISIT CARD, BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT'S TOO MUCH, AND YOU CAN LOSE YOURSELF IN A WAY, MAYBE.

I DON'T KNOW.

WELL, I KNOW YOU -- YOU MEAN, YOU BOTH DON'T NECESSARILY -- AND THE FILM DOESN'T NECESSARILY ADDRESS, THE I GUESS, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, BUT I DO JUST WONDER, THERE'S SO MUCH TALK IN NEW YORK, ESPECIALLY AS NEW DEVELOPERS COME IN.

A LOT OF NEW YORKERS SEE THE CITY PHYSICALLY CHANGING, NOT JUST WITH STRUCTURE, BUT ALSO WITH POPULATION CHANGES, AND THAT'S WHAT NEW YORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN, BUT I DO WONDER, WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES, AT LEAST, FOR THE CHELSEA HOTEL GOING TOWARD?

MAYA, I'LL START WITH YOU.

I MEAN, I THINK FOR THE CHELSEA, UNFORTUNATELY, I GUESS, IT'S KIND OF OVER NOW.

OR IT'S JUST CONTINUING IN A NEW CYCLE.

BUT I DON'T FEEL CLOSE TO THIS CYCLE, SO I DON'T HOPE A LOT OF THINGS.

I WOULD JUST LIKE THAT PEOPLE NEVER FORGET WHAT THE CHELSEA HAS BEEN, WHO WERE THE PEOPLE, THE FAMOUS PEOPLE LIVING THERE.

I JUST HOPE THAT PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THIS PHILOSOPHY AND THIS ART OF LIVING ALSO THAT THE CHELSEA HAS PERMITTED.

WE LIKE TO TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK CALLED 'GENTRIFICATION OF THE MIND', AND IT TALKS ABOUT HOW YOU CAN ERASE A POPULATION, A COMMUNITY JUST BY STOPPING TALKING ABOUT IT AND JUST BY PUTTING ANOTHER COMMUNITY ON IT THAT WILL JUST ERASE.

AND I THINK THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM IS JUST TO FORGET THE PEOPLE.

I KNOW THAT THINGS CHANGE AND THE CHELSEA HAS HAD A LOT OF OTHER CYCLES, SO -- THE CHELSEA WILL LIVE FOREVER IN A WAY, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO USED TO LIVE ARE NOT HERE FOREVER, SO I JUST HOPE WE REMEMBER WHAT THEY BROUGHT TO THE WORLD AND THE ART WORLD.

WE'VE RUN OUT OF TIME, SO WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE, BUT I WANT TO THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS.

MAYA IS THE CO-DIRECTOR OF THE FILM, AND SKY IS AN ARTIST WHO WAS PASSING THROUGH BUT GOT A CHANCE THE STAY AT THE STORIED CHELSEA HOTEL.

THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

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