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Thread: The Plaza Hotel - 768 Fifth Avenue at Central Park South - by Henry J Hardenbergh

  1. #31

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    March 5, 2005

    The Plaza Says It'll Be History After April 30

    By JAMES BARRON

    he Plaza Hotel, where the fictional character Eloise romped through the corridors inside and the fiction writer F. Scott Fitzgerald romped in the fountain outside, sent the union representing its workers a letter this week making official the timetable for the hotel's closing. No one will romp at the Plaza after April 30.

    The real estate company that owns the Plaza says it will become a construction site on its way to becoming condominiums and stores with a far smaller hotel on the 58th Street side.

    The hotel has called all guests who had reservations for later than April 30 to let them know they cannot stay there, said Miki Naftali, the president and chief executive of Elad Properties, the Plaza's owner.

    The letter to the union, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, which has organized a "Save the Plaza" campaign, said that 864 workers would lose their jobs "on or about April 30."

    The union wants the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the interior of the Plaza a landmark. The exterior has had such a designation for more than 30 years.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  2. #32

  3. #33

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    If you are against the changes to the Plaza you can email the Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney at rtierney@lpc.nyc.gov. My thoughts as they will be expressed to him:

    It is unbelievable to me that you are allowing the Plaza Hotel to be decimated.

    Excuse the hackneyed phrase, but what part of "Landmarks Preservation Commission" don't you understand? The Plaza is not just a building that, as long as it looks the same from the outside, can be considered preserved. It is a hub, a destination point, an all-roads-lead-to kind of place. Verily, in a way it is the heart of New York City. That it is a HOTEL is integral to its form as well as its function. For it is a public space. Anyone can walk in there, at any time. It is understood as a LANDMARK by its proprietors (or was), a place that people will simply come to see and walk through, to be in, with no other purpose.

    Can you imagine what that very central location in New York will be like when the Plaza is no longer a hotel? A big, grand, sprawling, gorgeous, thriving hotel? The character of Central Park South will be altered, diluted, castrated even. The same of Fifth Avenue, the same of Fifty-ninth Street. Of Central Park! Of Grand Army Plaza. The keystone of it all, the Plaza Hotel, will be an exclusive condo with elite shops and a few overpriced hotel rooms with no view. A gated community, it will be like. So this majestic focal point designed to attract people, to draw them in, to bring them together, day and night, will become a shut-off place discouraging to visitors. As if the super-rich with no souls who will purchase these condos, will want or even allow the public's presence encouraged on or near their premises. I'm sorry, but you have got to be out of your mind to let this happen. Or in someone's pocket, I hate to say.

    Have you ever even been to the Plaza? Walking in there is like taking a trip back in time, it is a time capsule of Old New York. As I write this I am just in such shock that you would allow this to happen, as I understand that you could stop it if you so desired, or at least put up roadblocks. Jeez, even Trump owned it and didn't mess around with it! And nothing is sacred to him! And yet, somehow the Plaza as a hotel survived even his greedy hands.

    By allowing the essence of the Plaza Hotel to be destroyed you are cutting out the heart of New York City. You are killing my hometown. In a way, I guess it is inevitable, as I'm one of those who kind of believes we are witnessing the decline of Western Civilization, today. And if the Plaza Hotel in New York City cannot be deemed worthy of continuing to function as one of the most beautiful and historic hotels in the world -- well, that's proof enough right there.

    And believe me, years from now, no one will remember who the developers were who did this -- they are faceless greedy bastards who will surely rue this ill-conceived destruction. It is you, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and you personally, Mr. Tierney, who will be held responsible in the eyes of history. Pennsylvania Station redux, hmm? You're quite brave, I suppose, in a way, to ensure such a destiny for yourself.

    If you don't protect the Plaza I don't see why you bother to protect anything. How ironic that people are actually afraid of landmark status these days as they think they won't be able to do anything with their property. I guess the Plaza will be a giant billboard for the silliness of that fear.

  4. #34

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    http://www.newyorkmetro.com/

    Intelligencer

    When Eloise Met Norma Rae

    Why does hotel-union leader Peter Ward think he can tell the Plaza’s owners they can’t turn it into luxury condos, anyway?


    By Greg Sargent


    Peter Ward got married at the Plaza 22 years ago, but by fighting to keep Elad Properties from converting it to condos, he’s not just trying to hold on to the memories of his wedding night. As president of the New York Hotel Trades Council, he’s trying to hold on to jobs (and union membership, which is currently 26,000). With an ad campaign that mixes nostalgia with economics, he’s attempting to turn the city against the white-hot real-estate trend of creating high-end housing out of hotels. Ward spoke to Greg Sargent about his “Save the Plaza” plan.


    The hotel-to-condo conversion fad isn’t new. Why make a stand now?
    Initially, we thought we should just cut the best deal possible for Plaza workers and asked Elad for double severance. They finally said no. They stand to make a $900 million profit, but they couldn’t spare $10 million for people who’d worked there for 30, 40, even 50 years. After our campaign started, they said, “We’re prepared to give you double severance right now.” We said the offer was unacceptable.


    Why?
    We’re shining a spotlight on the overall problem through the lens of the Plaza. Condo conversion destroys what are some of the best blue-collar jobs in the city. In twenty months, we’ve lost 1,000 union jobs to conversion. Unless we meet this head-on, it could be irreversible.


    You’re seeking legislation to block conversion. Is there a legal precedent here?
    Eminent domain is a good example. The state and city condemn real estate all the time and tell owners, “Tough shit,” because they think it’s in the public interest. And there are historic theaters whose owners have been told they may not alter them.


    What’s next?
    On April 5, we’re having a meeting with 6,000 of our members at Radio City. Then we’ll all march to the Plaza.


    Is a deal possible?
    We’re asking Elad to build luxury condos in the top 25 percent of the building. We have two hotel companies that are willing to come to the table to buy the bottom 75 percent.


    Who are they?
    I’m not at liberty to say.


    Why has Bloomberg jumped onboard?
    The mayor’s saying to developers, Don’t gut the hotel industry for a quick profit; build in places we’ve rezoned: western Queens, the Brooklyn waterfront.


    Apart from your wedding, what makes the Plaza so special?
    Imagine telling someone from London that you were gonna replace the Savoy with a shopping mall.

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    Peter Ward has a point. He's willing to make a concession with the top quarter of the building being converted to condos, a la the Waldorf=Astoria. I'm on the side of Save the Plaza with this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    Peter Ward has a point. He's willing to make a concession with the top quarter of the building being converted to condos, a la the Waldorf=Astoria. I'm on the side of Save the Plaza with this one.
    How in the world is that a concession? This developer bought a building and wants to make condos. That's the end. They should be happy he's keeping 150 rooms. He'd make more money going all condo and retail. They should also be happy he wants to perserve the interiors, which he does not have to.

    When is enough gonna be enough with these unions?

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    NY Daily News

    Suite deal may save Plaza jobs

    BY DAVID SALTONSTALL
    DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

    Don't pack your bags just yet, Eloise.
    The City Council is expected to introduce a bill today that would bar any hotel - including The Plaza, home to the fictional Eloise - from converting more than 20% of its space to condos.

    That could scuttle controversial plans by Plaza owners Elad Properties to cut the number of rooms at the fabled hotel by 80%, from 805 to 150, and convert the remainder of the landmark to condos and shops.

    "The Plaza is synonymous with the City of New York, and it's something we have to fight to preserve," said City Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), a sponsor of the bill. "But it has also spotlighted a much larger problem facing our city's hotel industry."

    The bill comes as more than a dozen hotels in the city have converted some or all of their rooms into high-price condos - eliminating more than 1,000 union-backed hotel jobs.

    At the same time, while a number of new hotels are in the pipeline, the tourism is booming.

    That has some worried that the city's critical tourism industry could soon be hamstrung by a lack of hotel rooms.

    The Council's bill would grant hotel owners a one-time right to convert 20% of their space to condos or other residential uses. After that, developers would have to prove to the city they are "unable to earn a reasonable financial return" as a hotel.

    The proposal was blasted yesterday by Elad Properties as a gift to the city's hotel union and an attempt to meddle with private-sector forces in "probably unconstitutional" ways.

    "It will not only hurt The Plaza hotel's renovation plans," said Elad President Miki Naftali, "but will also harm New York's booming real estate industry."

    Aides to Mayor Bloomberg, who has been trying to broker a deal between Elad and the city's hotel union, declined to comment on the bill.

    But hotel union President Peter Ward said he would work to ensure passage in the Council, where 34 members - a veto-proof majority - are expected to sign on, sources said.

    "We don't need to dismantle one of the few solid industries we have in this city," he said, "to build condos for rich people."

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by billyblancoNYC
    How in the world is that a concession? This developer bought a building and wants to make condos. That's the end. They should be happy he's keeping 150 rooms. He'd make more money going all condo and retail. They should also be happy he wants to perserve the interiors, which he does not have to.

    When is enough gonna be enough with these unions?
    At what price do conversions like these come? Converted hotels lose their legacy as great semiprivate buildings and become just another apartment building. The desire to maximize profit is the justification used to tear down hotels like the Savoy-Plaza and the Astor, and now the Plaza is in the crosshairs of overzealous developers. Shall the Waldorf=Astoria be next (though, granted, it's already partially residential)?

    Office buildings that are no longer viable are well-suited for conversions: they're mostly private domains that are no big loss to the general public. Now, however, we're talking about a building that was conceived as a gift to the city and is an institution the world over. New York without the Plaza is almost unthinkable — as is New York as a bedroom community, which might happen if the market, oh-so-favorable to condominiums, gets its way.

  9. #39

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    Amen to that.

    "It will not only hurt The Plaza hotel's renovation plans," said Elad President Miki Naftali, "but will also harm New York's booming real estate industry."
    He's right about the first part, but as for the second - it wouldn't cause a ripple.

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    NYPost

    MAYOR CALLS COUNCIL'S 'PLAZA' BILL A BIG LOSER

    By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

    A controversial City Council proposal to prevent The Plaza hotel from converting more than 20 percent of its space to condos would be tossed by the courts in "two seconds," Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

    The mayor was reacting to council legislation introduced last week to block Elad Properties, the new owner of the landmark hotel, from cutting the number of rooms it has by 80 percent — from 805 to 150.

    Unions at the hotel are opposing the new owner's plans because it will cost longtime workers at The Plaza their jobs.

    But critics have charged that the council proposal, which would affect other hotels in the city, will drive business from the Big Apple.

    "The law that the City Council has created — it hasn't passed yet — it wouldn't stand two seconds in court," Bloomberg said yesterday on his weekly WABC radio show.

    "It wouldn't stand the light of day. It's just not the right answer. It doesn't send the right message either, to anybody who might want to invest in this city."

    Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens), the lead sponsor, said he and his colleagues welcome a court challenge.

    "If the trend is to convert, we have to reexamine that trend. We're not looking to limit how they run their business; thousands of jobs are at stake. The tourism industry depends on hotel space in the city," he said.

    Addabbo added that hotels that could prove financial hardship would be permitted to exceed the 20 percent cap under his bill.

  11. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    At what price do conversions like these come? Converted hotels lose their legacy as great semiprivate buildings and become just another apartment building. The desire to maximize profit is the justification used to tear down hotels like the Savoy-Plaza and the Astor, and now the Plaza is in the crosshairs of overzealous developers. Shall the Waldorf=Astoria be next (though, granted, it's already partially residential)?

    Office buildings that are no longer viable are well-suited for conversions: they're mostly private domains that are no big loss to the general public. Now, however, we're talking about a building that was conceived as a gift to the city and is an institution the world over. New York without the Plaza is almost unthinkable — as is New York as a bedroom community, which might happen if the market, oh-so-favorable to condominiums, gets its way.
    Um, the Plaza already has permanent residents. This is just increasing the ratio of residents to guests. What's the big deal? The Plaza will still be a hotel, it will simply have more apartments. You can still stay at the Plaza, and the lobby will still be open.

    The site will be more public than before, because the old private meeting rooms on the second and third floors will become semipublic retail space. Right now these spaces are completely inaccessible to the public.

  12. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    Amen to that.

    He's right about the first part, but as for the second - it wouldn't cause a ripple.
    Wrong, the Council plan would destroy the hotel industry. This has nothing to do with hotels (on the whole the city is gaining hotel rooms, not losing them), it has everything to do with powerful unions.

    Rational companies wouldn't invest in NY hotels, because they would be barred from using their investment in the future as residences. This would kill the hotel market, as it would limit the range of potential future uses.

    If you interfere in a property and legislate a single low margin use (see rent control), you hurt the value of the property, and you limit the City's tax revenues from the property.

  13. #43
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    From the nysun:

    Battle Over Plaza Becoming Costly

    MILLIONS SPENT ON ADVERTISING, PUBLIC RELATIONS, LOBBYING

    By JULIE SATOW Staff Reporter of the Sun

    Money is flowing from both sides as the hotel union maneuvers to thwart the plan of the Plaza Hotel’s owners to close the Midtown landmark at month’s end and convert it into luxury condominiums.

    The New York Hotel Trades Council, according to a source, has spent a total of $2 million on television spots, fullpage newspaper ads, and rallies featuring a civil-rights campaigner, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and a movie director, Peter Bogdanovich.

    Elad Properties, meanwhile, is spending more than $20,000 a month for two public relations firms, a lobbying group, and a well-connected former city official.

    A relatively unknown developer until it charged onto the New York real estate scene last summer with the $675 million purchase of the Plaza, Elad plans to shutter the 805-room hotel April 30, resulting in the loss of 800 union jobs.The Plaza is scheduled to reopen late next year with 200 condominiums, a scaleddown,150-room hotel,and a retail space on the ground floor.

    “With big public fights like the West Side and the Plaza, this is now the way in which things are decided in the
    public realm: We buy hired guns to craft our message,” the executive director of the nonprofit think tank the Citizens Union, Dick Dadey, said.“What is very important is that the public know the source of these funds, where they come from, and what they are being used for.”

    A public relations executive, Lloyd Kaplan of Linden Alschuler & Kaplan, is the newest member of the Elad publicity machine, joining another spokesman, Steve Solomon of Rubenstein Public Relations.

    Sources familiar with the fee structures of the two firms said the minimum monthly charge for for-profit clients is between $5,000 and $10,000. Mr. Kaplan said that description of the

    firm’s fee scale was inaccurate, but he declined to elaborate. Mr. Solomon did not return calls by press time.

    “Linden Alschuler is heading up everything to do with the condominium conversion, while Rubenstein will represent Elad the company, the same way it always has,” Mr. Kaplan said.

    Elad also has retained the lobbyist Suri Kasirer, whose husband, Bruce Teitelbaum, is former chief of staff to Mayor Giuliani. Ms. Kasirer, head of Kasirer Consulting, is being paid $14,500 a month from March through May, and then $10,700 a month from June through March 2006, according to state lobbying records. Mr.Teitelbaum, too, has represented Elad: Following a rally last month by the hotel workers’ union, he served as Elad’s spokesman.

    The union hired the Sunshine Group, headed by Kenneth Sunshine, to do its public relations, and the Advance Group, headed by Scott Levenson, to do its lobbying. Both Mr. Sunshine and Mr. Levenson work for several other unions, including the powerful healthcare workers union, 1199 SEIU.

    It could not be determined yesterday what the Sunshine Group’s fees were. The Advance Group, which has been retained by the hotel workers’ union since 1999, is paid a monthly fee of $4,500.

    “This is a crusade about saving union jobs, not about money, so I’m not upset we are not being paid more,” Ken Frydman, who was subcontracted by the Advance Group to help fight the hotel’s closure, said.

    The $2 million spent by the union comes mostly from an extra $10 a week that all the New York hotel union members are paying, according to a source familiar with the union expenditures, who spoke on condition that he would not be named. The source said the union has $20 million in its “defense fund.”

    Much of the money in the Plaza campaign goes to costly TV spots, another source who demanded anonymity said. This week, for example, the union paid for two advertisements during a Yankees game.

    The union also spent a reported $20,000 on a trip to Israel to seek to convince Elad Properties’ parent company, Elad Group, to halt its conversion plans of the hotel.

    In addition to the closure of the Plaza, the two sides are battling over a bill introduced in the City Council that would limit to 20% the share of hotel rooms in any hotel that could be converted into condominiums. The bill, introduced by a Queens Democrat, Joseph Addabbo, would require that the Plaza retain more than four times the number of hotel rooms it plans to reopen with. The measure has still not gone to committee, where it will be decided whether it falls within the council’s jurisdiction, Mr. Addabbo said.

    In addition, the council member said, he floated the idea of a mixed-use unit — a unit that a developer could sell as a condominium but would revert back to use as a hotel room for part of the year. Mr. Addabbo said the hotel union had agreed to the plan, but “Elad said no.” He added: “In my mind, that is no way to negotiate.”

  14. #44

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    Newsday
    April 11, 2005

    Cosmetic heir to broker Plaza compromise?

    BY ELIZABETH SANGER
    STAFF WRITER

    Slide Show: Rallying for the Plaza
    Photos: Inside the Plaza
    What people are saying

    Ronald S. Lauder, heir to a cosmetics fortune and a billionaire private investor, is trying to broker a compromise with the Plaza Hotel's owner that would limit the number of proposed condominiums and maintain its integrity as a landmark.

    Lauder is acting as a concerned New Yorker "who feels strongly it remain as a grand New York hotel," his spokesman, Hank Sheinkopf, said yesterday. Lauder has held "quiet, non-public meetings" with key parties and is trying to mediate a resolution, which could include some condo apartments, he said.

    Elad Properties, a private New York company owned by an Israeli businessman, bought the 98-year-old hotel last year for $675 million. It plans to close the hotel for about 18 months on April 30 and spend $350 million to reconfigure the space into 200 condos and a hotel with 150 guest rooms; there are 805 rooms now.

    Some prominent New Yorkers have also urged that the owner preserve the opulent and historic public rooms, such as the Grand Ballroom, Oak Room and Palm Court.

    Lloyd Kaplan, a spokesman for Elad, said he had no comment on talks seeking a compromise.

    Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel Trades Council, which opposes Elad's plan largely because it is estimated the union will lose 900 jobs, said he offered a compromise that splits the building between condos and a hotel rooms, with the condos getting the premier real estate along Central Park South and half the Fifth Avenue side.

    Under his design, there wouldn't be a large retail component, which requires zoning changes that the landlord may not obtain anyway, he said.

    The 350-room hotel that Ward envisions would incorporate the ballroom and restaurants and maintain 450 jobs. "We save the hotel, and they make a king's ransom" -- a $500-million profit in 30 months, Ward said.

    Ward said Lauder's proposal "goes further than my compromise."

    Sheinkopf said Lauder, who Forbes magazine estimates is worth $2.7 billion, is not interested in buying the Plaza.

    Miki Naftali, Elad's president, said last week that the focus of the Plaza's lobby and public spaces will be on "fashion and food," with restaurants and a high-end retail emporium.

    Lauder, chairman of Clinique Laboratories, one of the brands of the Estee Lauder Cos., is the younger son of the company's late founder, Estee Lauder. He is active in politics, the arts and philanthropy and has a large personal art collection. He is chairman of the board of trustees of the Museum of Modern Art, and he founded the Neue Galerie, a museum of German and Austrian Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Austria under President Ronald Reagan and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for mayor in 1989.

    Meanwhile, Elad has hired Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe to determine whether a proposal before the City Council that would limit the number of condo conversions in hotels is constitutional.

    Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.

  15. #45

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    Newsday
    April 13, 2005

    City Hall to save The Plaza

    BY ELIZABETH SANGER
    STAFF WRITER

    Now City Hall is trying to help save The Plaza.

    Representatives of the national landmark and of the union that has 900 members there met in the past two days at City Hall with staffers from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

    They've been trying to reach a compromise on the future use of the stately structure, including the number of luxury condominium apartments to be carved from the 805 rooms, sources familiar with the talks said.

    With an April 30 deadline looming as the final guest checkout, the sides have been feverishly negotiating an agreement that would preserve the icon and its well-known public spaces and restaurants, maintain an ample number of hotel rooms and jobs, and provide the owner with enough condos to make a decent profit on its planned $1-billion investment.

    The New York Hotel Trades Council has said it will continue to press for saving members' jobs, past the hotel closing if necessary. Sources say Bloomberg is involved because it's to his benefit to protect good-paying union jobs, particularly in an election year, and tourism is an important engine of the city's economy.

    Elad Properties, which bought the hotel last year for $675 million, has built condo apartment towers and converted commercial structures to residential units throughout Manhattan. It plans to gut much of the Plaza's interior and create 200 apartments and a 150-room boutique hotel. It also wants to attract a high-end fashion retailer.

    The union wants Elad to essentially split the building down the middle -- giving the better half with the Central Park views to the permanent residents -- and to keep 350 hotel rooms and 450 jobs.

    Prominent New Yorker Ronald Lauder stepped in recently to try to forge a deal, believing the Plaza should be preserved as a landmark and a world-famous hotel.

    To explain its plans to restore the 98-year-old hotel, which is showing its age, Elad launched the first of hundreds of television commercials Tuesday that will run for two weeks, as well as a Web site (www.ReallySaveThePlaza.com). The union also has a site on the issue (www.SaveThePlaza.com).

    Elad says the best-known interior spaces, including the Grand Ballroom, Palm Court and Oak Room, won't undergo structural modifications. However, Elad will introduce "highly appropriate retail uses within its most important public spaces." And it talks about designing "horizontal and vertical circulation," which in layman's terms means installing escalators and corridors. Only the exterior has landmark status.

    Elad says the renovation will generate $100 million in additional annual revenue for the city. A source said Elad has been offered more than $1 billion to sell the Plaza and walk away from the controversy, but turned down the bids.

    In a related matter, the City Council will hold a hearing today on a proposal by the union that would limit the number of hotel rooms that could be converted to condos. Elad hired Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, and he is expected to argue that the measure is unconstitutional.

    Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.

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