Residential conversion of former Hudson Hotel torments long-time tenants



A picture of the 22nd floor of the former Hudson Hotel. Photo by Lauren Dalban

Dirty vents blow air through the residential sections of this once-popular party hotel, disturbing the plastic sheeting that fills the hallways of the 20th floor. A large sign warns the tenants of a lead hazard and exposed wiring hangs from the ceilings. 

The building has 38 registered Single-Room Occupancy units, a rare subset of rent-stabilized housing. Located a block south of Columbus Circle, it’s now being converted to condominiums. And the work has presented a slew of escalating problems for tenants. Many have lived there for decades. 

“I very, very seriously feel homeless because I don’t have my own home at the moment,” said long-time tenant Tess, who along with other building residents asked that only their first names be used because they fear retaliation from the building’s new owners. 

Tess has lived in her apartment on the 15th floor for 39 years. She was pregnant with her second child when construction began on her floor in November of last year. Dust filled the hallway outside her apartment, debris fell from the ceiling and exposed wiring became the new norm. She said she even saw a severed electrical wire near a water leak.

“I can’t trust that my kids will be safe there,” she said.

When the lead was discovered, it sent her family running to stay temporarily with her in-laws an hour outside of the city. Lead is well known to damage the nervous systems and brain development of young children.

Residents who stayed face other problems. They are often forced to use only one elevator – the construction elevator – which they say increases wait times and exposes them to dust and debris. In an emergency, the homebound or disabled residents and the elderly on upper floors could be trapped. 

New York City’s Housing Preservation Department has documented 68 tenant complaints about the Hudson and issued 29 housing violations since the renovations began in mid-2022. The complaints describe a consistent lack of hot water and heat, peeling paint, exposed wiring and rodents. 

“Essential services were in upheaval during all that time,” said Raul, who has lived on an upper floor of the building with his wife Renata for over 20 years. “Water came and went.”

Last year, Renata lost her storage space to the construction. She was given less than a day to remove her and Raul’s dust-covered belongings. 

“I freaked out,” she said. “I had to throw half of it away.” 

Neither CSC Coliving, nor the Housing Preservation Department responded to multiple emails and phone calls seeking comment. 

According to New York City law, new property owners like CSC Coliving must obtain a Certificate of No Harassment before they can apply for a permit to demolish or change the occupancy of any part of the building. The owner’s initial application for the Hudson was denied. A key violation was that construction had not been approved to renovate the occupied floors, but it was taking place there. 

Work continued until the local community board successfully pressured the Department of Buildings to issue a partial stop work order in February. The order is still in effect today, prohibiting work on tenant-occupied floors, though it continues on empty ones. CSC Coliving’s second application for a Certificate of No Harassment is pending. 

This October, the local community board drafted a letter to send to the Housing Preservation Department requesting the denial of the Hudson owners’ application for the Certificate of No Harassment. Recently, the owners have been called in for a hearing to discuss their actions at the building.

If tenants and the community board are successful and the application is rejected, the entire future of the building will be called into question. 

The Department of Buildings is aware of issues at 353 W 57th street and has taken numerous enforcement actions against the building owner over the last few years,” the department said in a statement. “The building has been subjected to a Partial Stop Work Order, after inspectors found extensive interior work being performed that did not conform to approved plans.”

For Tess, this is not enough.

“Somebody is going to get hurt,” she said. “Something bad is going to happen and I don’t want to be the person that happens to.”