Statler Hotels - Hotel Pennsylvania

Statler Hotels - Hotel Pennsylvania
Official Hotel Website
Hotel located at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street
(across from Madison Square Gardens)


Ellsworth acquired the operating lease of the Hotel Pennsylvania December 11, 1916.

The Statler Corporation finally bought the hotel outright from the Pennsylvania Rail Road in 1948, immediately changed its name to Hotel Statler and was part of the $111 million sell to Hilton in 1954.  Hilton sold the hotel in the early 1970s.

Glen Miller immortalized this hotel in the song "Pennsylvania Six-Five Thousand," back when it was the Hotel Statler. The building was designed by renowned architect Stanford White in 1904 and has a history that's both long and rich.  "6-5000" is still the main desk phone number at the hotel today.

View blueprints of the Hotel Pennsylvania

View various items (pictures, postcards, etc.) about the Hotel Pennsylvania

Here is TripAdvisor's website of travellers' reviews from staying at the Hotel Penn...

Here is Yahoo Travel's website full of reviews...

Not very encouraging...


Info taken from an AP article in the Thursday, December 1, 2005 edition of the Newsmax website.

Swiss Women Sue After Hotel Bedbug Attacks

NEW YORK -- Two Swiss businesswomen who spent a week at Manhattan's Hotel Pennsylvania in September have filed a lawsuit saying they had a lousy time trying to sleep there because they were bitten by bedbugs.

Ksenija Knezevic, of Zurich, and Marlies Barisic, of Kreuzlingen, both in their early 30s, say the bloodsucking insects began attacking Sept. 17, the night they checked into the hotel across from Madison Square Garden.

The women's lawsuit, filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, says they suffered bedbug bites over their torsos, arms and legs. Their lawyer, Alberto Ebanks, said bugs also bit their cheeks and necks and caused possibly permanent scarring.

"They were eaten alive," Ebanks said Wednesday.

He said the women had to seek medical treatment while in New York, where they were given antibiotics, and when they returned to Switzerland. He said photographs of the women's wounds are "gruesome."

Ebanks said that when the women told employees of the Seventh Avenue hotel that they were uncomfortable and something was wrong, one immediately exclaimed, "Bedbugs!"

"That tells us that this hotel was certainly on notice that they had a bedbug problem," the lawyer said. "They knew what was going on, but no one wanted to stand up and take responsibility the right way."

Ebanks said the women "came here looking for a New York experience and looked forward to their vacation." He said both are now seeing a Swiss dermatologist.

Ebanks said one of the women tried to enter her office the day after she returned to Switzerland, but "she wasn't 10 feet into that office when a co-worker told her she looked terrible and asked her to please go home immediately."

Court papers say that because of the hotel's "extreme and outrageous" negligence regarding the bedbug assaults, the women have suffered "physical pain, mental anguish, emotional distress and lost earnings."

The lawsuit names the hotel and owners Vornado Realty Trust, 401 Hotel Management Co. LLC and 401 Hotel TRS as defendants. It seeks unspecified damages.

Roann Kulikoff, a spokeswoman for the hotel and its owners, said her clients did not comment on pending litigation.

Ebanks was the lawyer for two Mexican businessmen who sued Leona Helmsley's upscale Park Lane Hotel in 2003 after they complained they had been dined on by bedbugs. That case reportedly was settled confidentially in 2004.

The following article was taken from the April 19, 1981 edition of the New York Times newspaper.

Blaze at the Statler Hotel Called 'Definitely Arson'
Published: April 19, 1981

Fire marshals have determined that the blaze Friday that virtually closed the New York Statler Hotel was ''definitely arson,'' according to a spokesman for the Fire Department.

The spokesman, John Mulligan, said the marshals had found a gallon can containing a flammable liquid in the vicinity of the third-floor ballroom, where the fire broke out.

The blaze sent smoke billowing up the sides of the 21-story hotel at Seventh Avenue and 33d Street.

The marshals are attempting to determine where the can came from and what type fluid was in it, Mr. Mulligan said. About three hours after the fire was reported at 2:44 A.M., the 1,500 guests were permitted to return to their rooms. But late Friday afternoon, hotel managers said guests were being sent to other hotels in the area because of electrical problems caused by water damage.

William Senkbeil, an assistant manager, said yesterday afternoon that only ''a handful of permanent residents'' remained in the hotel and that he could not estimate when it might begin accepting guests again.

The following article was taken from the August 17, 1983 edition of the New York Times newspaper.

Real Estate; New Phase Beginning For Statler
Published: August 17, 1983

WHEN Ellsworth Statler and the Pennsylvania Railroad built the Hotel Pennsylvania in 1919, on Seventh Avenue between 32d and 33d Streets, their aim was to serve travelers arriving at the recently opened Pennsylvania Station across the street.

Since then, air travel has replaced rail travel as the dominant mode of transportation. And the New York Statler Hotel, which was designed by Stanford White and until 1927 was the world's largest, has operated under several owners and several names.

The hotel recently changed hands again, and the new owners are looking for patronage from visitors drawn to Manhattan's West Side for another reason: The city's 1.8-million-square- foot convention center is going up five blocks from the hotel.

''We will have a distinct advantage in being the closest major hotel in the new convention center's vicinity,'' said Elie Hirschfeld. He and his father, Abraham Hirschfeld, and Arthur G. Cohen have joined with Penta Hotels, which owns and operates dozens of medium-priced hotels in Europe and the Middle East, to purchase the 1,700-room landmark from an investment group headed by Willim Zeckendorf Jr. for an estimated $46 million.

With 58,000 square feet of ballroom space and 24,000 square feet of exhibition room, the hotel, at the edge of the garment district, has long drawn its share of convention delegates and business travelers. The hotel was the headquarters for the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and 1980.

An underground passageway at 33d Street links the hotel with Pennsylvania Station, Madison Square Garden and other buildings, providing easy access for hotel guests.

Abelco, the name of the Hirschfeld- Cohen partnership, and the Penta organization each have a 50 percent interest in the venture. Penta will manage the hotel, which will be renamed the New York Penta.

The Penta Hotels chain is owned by British Airways, Lufthansa, Swissair and three major European banks. According to Pier Weidt, director for marketing for Penta, the consortium was formed in 1970 to secure hotel accomodations for the airlines' travelers in major gateway cities where the airlines flew.

''The acquisition of the Statler is the first that Penta has purchased in the United States, but there are plans for future development here,'' he said.

Although the hotel was upgraded just four years ago after Mr. Zeckendorf's group bought it, the new owners have announced a multimillion- dollar modernization program, to be completed in several stages during the next 18 months. All of the hotel's public spaces, including the lobbies and restaurants, and about 1,200 of the rooms and suites will be redesigned. The facelift will include the hotel's exterior.

Despite the money the new owners plan to put into the hotel, which is now the city's fourth largest, Elie Hirschfeld said the group was committed to maintaining its current room prices.

''We want to fit into a particular niche, to reach a market of business travelers and tourists who are not looking for a super-luxurious hotel,'' said Elie Hirschfeld. ''The current average price of a double room at the hotel is less than $100 per day, and we will maintain that price structure.''

The Penta-Abelco partners are not the only investors outside the city who are investing in Manhattan's West Side. In May V.M.S. Realty, a Chicago-based national real estate investment firm, acquired the New York Sheraton Hotel, on Seventh Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets, from the Sheraton Corporation. V.M.S. paid $60 million for the 1,450- room hotel, the city's fifth largest.

At the time of the purchase, Peter R. Morris, the 34-year-old chairman of V.M.S., called the acquisition a ''once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.'' He added that the company's decision to take over the Sheraton reflected its strong belief in the further economic growth of New York City in general and in what Mr. Morris called the renaissance taking place on the West Side between Times Square and Lincoln Center.

V.M.S. Realty, founded by Mr. Morris six years ago, is jointly owned by him and the Van Kamp Group, an investment banking firm. Since its beginning in 1977, V.M.S. has acquired 3,500 hotel and motel units. The company also owns 3.5 million square feet of commercial property in office buildings, shopping centers and hotels and owns or manages more than 12,000 residential units throughout the country.

V.M.S. selected the Dunfey Hotels Corporation, a hotel and restaurant chain owned by Aer Lingus, as its manager.

The following article was taken from the New York Daily News website.

Office tower dooms Hotel Pennsylvania
Hosted Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington

Originally published on January 5, 2007

The Hotel Pennsylvania - a New York fixture whose phone number was immortalized in Glenn Miller's Big Band hit "Pennsylvania 6-5000" - will be torn down to build an office tower, according to a real estate report.

Vornado Realty Trust, a real estate giant with big plans in the Madison Square Garden area, intends to replace the 1,700-room hotel opposite Penn Station with a 2.5-million-square-foot building by 2011, the report says.

"The five base floors will be 100,000-square-foot trading floors, and the building will be marketed towards a financial services industry tenant," according to the 2007 market forecast from real estate firm Grubb & Ellis.

A Vornado spokesman said last night the firm had no comment.

The hotel, whose Seventh Ave. entrance is dominated by large columns, was developed by the Pennsylvania Railroad and designed by the renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, which also gave New York its majestic main post office on Eighth Ave., as well as the former Penn Station.

The Statler Hotel Pennsylvania, as general manager Ellsworth Statler's grande dame was originally known, opened in 1919 with 2,200 rooms. It was said to be the largest hotel in the world until the late 1920s.

"New York Panorama," a guidebook produced in the 1930s by the Federal Writers' Project of New York City, described the 22-story Pennsylvania, the Commodore and the Roosevelt as "characteristic of the country-wide type of modern hotel."

Its Cafe Rouge ballroom was a popular venue during the Big Band era of the 1930s and '40s. Besides Glenn Miller's orchestra, bandleaders Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and the Dorsey brothers thrilled crowds from its stage. Benny Goodman's band was a favorite in the hotel's Manhattan Room.

But with big Midtown office layouts now scarce, the tower envisioned for the site could fetch rents of around $100 per square foot - near the top for Manhattan - and "an accomplishment which would change the face of the Midtown South market," Grubb & Ellis predicted.

Vornado, which announced plans to buy the Manhattan Mall in Herald Square last November, is also part of the development team picked by the state to turn the main post office into an extension of Penn Station.

Though the Farley conversion is now stalled, Vornado and its partner, the Related Cos., are also pushing a much larger project. It would tack a new Madison Square Garden on the Ninth Ave. end of the post office complex and replace the existing arena with office towers and a new Penn Station.

Until the hotel hits its undisclosed closing date, guests can still call Pennsylvania 6-5000 - the hotel's main phone number - and hear a few bars of its signature tune.

The following article was taken from the New York Observer :

The Lonely Fight For The Hotel Pennsylvania
A hacker and his compatriots stand athwart an old hotel’s demolition and everything they say it represents. Will a development-mad city hear them?

by Chris Shott
This article was published in the October 15, 2007, edition of The New York Observer.

Gregory Jones was welling up. “As of Monday, scaffolding went up around the hotel,” he said, pausing. “I get a little emotional,” he sobbed. “Friends of mine work at this hotel. It means a great deal to me.”

Mr. Jones, a big burly guy with a shaved head, a goatee and a soft spot for antiquated accommodations, was speaking to a panel of elders from the local community board last week about the fate of his cherished Hotel Pennsylvania.

Voracious developer Vornado Realty Trust, which owns the ancient lodge on Seventh Avenue—along with several adjacent lots—has threatened to demolish the 22-story Beaux-Arts structure, built in 1919, and erect in its place by 2011 an enormous office tower rivaling the size of the Empire State Building.

The smashing hotel redevelopment plan is merely part of a far grander scheme to reconstruct, reconfigure and polish to a Grand Central–like shine the entire surrounding area, from the old Farley Post Office to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station below to the Manhattan Mall.

As the first metal beams of a new construction shed went up around the hotel last week—a sign of forthcoming improvements, not implosion, if you believe the hotel’s Oct. 4 press release—Mr. Jones, 38, a nearby 30th Street neighbor, rushed to lobby local officials: Tell Vornado, he pleaded, leave Hotel Pennsylvania alone!

“How much more do we have to sacrifice in our history for progress?” asked Mr. Jones, who has formally requested an historic evaluation of the McKim, Mead & White–designed building by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“If we can get this building landmarked,” he said, “they can’t touch it.”

That’s a pretty big if.

Decades ago, legendary preservationist Jane Jacobs spearheaded massive demonstrations to protect another McKim, Mead & White creation, the original Penn Station, which once stood stoic across the street. That didn’t stop developers, who ruefully razed the beloved hub in 1963.

Mr. Jones’ neo-Jacobsian revival, titled “Save The Hotel,” hasn’t generated quite the same level of public outcry.

“I have been talking to a lot of people and gotten very little interest in the Pennsylvania Hotel,” noted community board member Joyce Matz, who nonetheless volunteered to research the hotel’s history and report back to the neighborhood advisory group next month. “I don’t honestly know how worthy it is to save.”

ONCE A GLAMOROUS DESTINATION where jazz standouts Count Basie and Duke Ellington performed in the grand ballroom—a place immortalized (along with its phone number) by the Glenn Miller tune “Pennsylvania 6-5000”—the 1,700-room hotel has since devolved into a cheap, decrepit tourist trap more commonly associated with reported bedbug attacks than big-band nostalgia.

Preservationists citywide have responded to Vornado’s proposed demolition with a resounding “Eh.”

Of Manhattan’s fourth-largest hotel with its famous phone digits, Roger Lang, director of community services and programs for The New York Landmarks Conservancy, a leading private preservation advocacy group, reportedly remarked, “Size and a number do not a landmark make.”

The Municipal Art Society’s president, Kent Barwick, in an interview for another story, told The Observer, “Preserving that hotel, which has become very seedy, is not anywhere near as important as reusing the Farley building and creating a new rail station.”

“[T]he inside has been pretty much stripped,” Peg Breen, president of The New York Landmarks Conservancy, told the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “I don’t think anyone who has stayed there recently has been overly in love with the place. … Whatever tears are going to be shed, they’re too late.”

An emotionally invested Mr. Jones isn’t swayed by all the naysaying: “Call it a hole in the ground. Call it a shithole. Call it whatever you like,” he said of the Hotel Pennsylvania. “If you don’t keep your past alive, then there’s no hope for the future. Are we just going to pave over our history and forget about it?”

This important history lesson coming from a self-described technophile: Part of Mr. Jones’ passion for the old hotel comes from his involvement in a biannual gathering of computer geeks, the so-called H.O.P.E. (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference, organized by the Long Island–based quarterly techie mag 2600, which last July drew nearly 3,000 conventioneers to the endangered inn. The hacker group has converged on Hotel Pennsylvania almost every other year since 1994; it’s scheduled to descend upon the premises again in July 2008 for an event called “The Last Hope.” “The hotel will still be here,” Mr. Jones said, “hopefully.”

For some participating hackers, the hotel’s looming demise has become a pet cause. “If you go to the Web site,, a funeral march will play and flash animation will come up saying ‘All good things,’” Mr. Jones pointed out. An entire section of the site is devoted to news and commentary about Vornado and its plans for the hotel site.

“Just recently, I was in Vienna and Pisa [Italy], where people expressed a great deal of concern to me over the fate of the hotel,” wrote pseudonymous 2600 publisher and WBAI radio personality Emmanuel Goldstein in an e-mail to The Observer. “It was hard (and rather embarrassing) to explain why New Yorkers might not care enough to get involved. The hotel was old; the rooms weren’t as big and luxurious as other more modern facilities; and New Yorkers simply weren’t in a position to grasp the importance of such a place since they normally don’t need cheap and easily accessible hotels if they already live here.”

Yet, even among the directly affected, it seems, the dire future of a dingy hotel isn’t enough to prompt any real action. “I looked upon the other people with 2600 to do this and nobody did much of anything,” said Mr. Jones, who has taken it upon himself to spearhead the preservation drive. “I plunked down money to have an actual, official Web site. I manage it. I host it. In the past week, I’ve probably thrown more stuff up on that Web site than when I first started it.”

But why bother with a propaganda campaign at all? Can’t hackers just crack into Vornado’s computers and sabotage the developers’ plans that way?

“Like spamming them to death?” asked Mr. Jones. “Those are destructive means. That’s not what a true hacker is about. We’re not about taking down Vornado. We’re about finding new ways around the system to get Vornado to stop what they’re doing.”

For now, though, the outsiders seem content to play an insider’s game, seeking the support of various boards and agencies. “If they can get a proposition on the books, then we can start taking political action,” the head hacktivist explained. “Everybody else uses politics as leverage. Why not us?”

The following article was taken from the New York Observer :

Preservationists Huddle As Hotel Pennsylvania Inches Closer to Check-Out Time

by Chris Shott  |  October 25, 2007

Beleaguered financial giant Merrill Lynch has "given every indication" that it intends to move from downtown to a new skyscraper where the historic Hotel Pennsylvania now stands at 401 Seventh Avenue, according to today's Times.

But! Preservationists hoping to save the once glamorous circa-1919 McKim, Mead & White-designed building from the wrecking ball, take heart. There's still a glimmer of hope for the old fleabag.

The Hotel Pennsylvania demolition project requires public approval, which could take a year, and would entail building over the railroad tracks that run beneath the hotel and pose engineering and security challenges.

A committee of the local Community Board 5 meets Tuesday to discuss whether the hotel merits consideration as a protected landmark. The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30 at 227 West 27th Street, 8th floor, Rm A802.

HotelPenn04.jpg (35833 bytes)
Photo by Chris Krupnik

The following article was taken from the New York Observer :

Panel Recommends Preserving Hotel Pennsylvania

by Chris Shott  | October 31, 2007

There's hope for the old fleabag yet!

In a surprise 6-to-1 vote last night, the landmarks committee of Manhattan's Community Board 5 voted to recommend designating the historic and endangered Hotel Pennsylvania as an official city landmark.

If approved by the full board next week and later by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, the proposal could save the old 22-story inn from the wrecking ball. Owner Vornado Realty Trust wants to tear it down and erect a giant office tower in its place, possibly as a new headquarters for Merrill Lynch.

The board's vote ran counter to the wishes of the Municipal Arts Society, which informed the panel by letter that it did not support the designation for fear of interfering with Vornado's planned redevelopment of the nearby Farley Post Office.

Even Joyce Matz, perhaps the panel's most zealous preservationist, did not support the motion, noting that the "banal" building was actually designed by "lesser junior staff" members of the hallowed architecture firm McKim, Mead & White. (Both Charles McKim and Stanford White were dead by the time the hotel was built in 1919.)

"I had discussions with three very noted architectural historians, and the feeling was this, [the hotel] is not the best, nor one of best, hotels that McKim, Mead & White designed," Ms. Matz said. "It is not a significant design, nor is the facade of exceptional interest."

Others, though, pointed to several unique cultural attributes, including the Glenn Miller-popularized "Pennsylvania 6-5000," which remains "New York's longest continually used phone number."

The hotel is also "one of the last surviving examples of very large hotels built to accomodate train travelers," noted writer Carter B. Horsley, who typically doesn't speak out on such issues, he said.

The full board will take up the issue on Nov. 8. The meeting takes place at 6 p.m., located at 227 West 27th Street, Building "C", Haft Auditorium, 2nd Floor.

The following article was taken from the November 2, 2007 edition of the New York Times newspaper.

Living It Up at the Hotel Pennsylvania

By Jake Mooney
Published on November 2, 2007

The Hotel Pennsylvania, across Seventh Avenue from Pennsylvania Station between West 32nd and 33rd Street, has been through a lot of names over the years. According to the Encyclopedia of New York City, it opened in 1919 under that name, and was successively called the Hotel Statler, the Statler-Hilton Hotel, the New York Statler Hotel, the New York Penta Hotel, the Hotel Pennsylvania (again), and the Ramada Hotel Pennsylvania.

Now owned by Vornado Realty Trust, it is, once again, simply the Hotel Pennsylvania. The phone number, famously, has been the same all along: PEnnsylvania 6-5000, as immortalized by Glenn Miller, who was one of many band leaders to play at the hotel in the 1930s and ’40s. (That number, by the way, is now (212) 736-5000, if you’re rusty on old-style exchange names.)

I mention all of this for a few reasons: Vornado has been making noises all year about tearing the hotel down and replacing it with an office tower, and last week the news was that Merrill Lynch was interested in moving its headquarters there from Lower Manhattan. Then this week, the landmarks committee of Community Board 5, which represents the area, voted in favor of granting the building city landmark protection.

That vote is purely advisory; a vote from the full board — also purely advisory — is scheduled for next Thursday. Still, the hotel is back in the news, and that’s not even mentioning all of the plans for reinventing Penn Station and Madison Square Garden in the coming years. I spent some time this week talking with people who spend a lot of time in the neighborhood about all the coming changes for the Dispatches feature in The City section.

HotelPenn03.jpg (25433 bytes)
Photo by Chester Higgins Jr.

Here’s some more about the Hotel Pennsylvania from the city encyclopedia: Like its late, lamented neighbor, the original Penn Station, it was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, and when it opened, with 2,200 rooms, it was the largest hotel in the world. The outside today looks much as it always has, but interior renovations over the years reduced the number of rooms in the hotel to about 1,700.

It remains popular with travelers, but its reputation has taken some hits since the glory days: In 2005, two Swiss businesswomen sued the hotel and Vornado, claiming severe bedbug bites.

The hotel has played a major role in housing attendees of conventions at Madison Square Garden, including the Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show and the 2004 Republican National Convention. For the latter, many reporters were headquartered in the hotel’s conference rooms, and many stayed there. This exchange, memorialized in a transcript from a briefing at the time by the heads of the House and Senate press galleries, nicely encapsulates various contemporary opinions about the place:

MR. KEENAN: What I might suggest in New York, though, there’s a hotel that’s located right across the street. It’s the old Pennsylvania Hotel. Is that the Ramada now?

MS. TATE: It’s still the Hotel Pennsylvania.

MR. GALLEGOS: It’s still the Hotel Penn — they keep changing the name about every two years. And it’s been renovated. I know the first conventions we went to, it was a dump.


MS. TATE: Oh, yeah.

MR. KEENAN: And it’s probably been that way for all but the last couple of years. But you walk in now and it’s not bad looking. And I would suggest, if you wanted a room that’s very close in New York, try the Hotel Pennsylvania, but ask for the top floors. The top floors are the ones that have been most recently renovated and they’ve got high-speed cable modems there.

About half their rooms have been renovated, and this is a hotel with 1600 rooms or so, it’s quite a number of rooms. It’s inexpensive as New York goes and the best rooms are up on the higher levels, but you are just across the street, just across Seventh Avenue from Madison Square Gardens.

Snark aside, though, thousands of people enjoy their stays at the Hotel Pennsylvania every year, and I met one of them — an Irish tourist enjoying the favorable exchange rate — at a bar across the street. And, considering the turmoil at Merrill Lynch in the last week, there is no telling whether the company will go through with the move to Midtown or not.

As far as the move to landmark it goes, the building has had little support from the city’s most prominent preservationists, and even David Siesko, the chairman of Community Board 5, said the issue had not been on his radar before a community member raised it at the board’s September meeting.

So, is there widespread interest in the landmark issue?

“Well,” Mr. Siesko said, “there clearly is on the landmarks committee of Community Board 5.”

As for the rest of the board — and he stressed that the process would eventually involve many more governmental bodies than just the community board — Mr. Siesko said: “Landmarking is not an easy process. Neither the community board nor the landmarks committee goes about this process lightly.”

The following article was taken from the November 4, 2007 edition of the New York Times newspaper.

Glitz? There Goes the Neighborhood

Published: November 4, 2007

A little before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, as on every other weekday afternoon, the stretch of 32nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Avenue of the Americas was filled with commuters barreling westward, briefcases swinging, in a dash toward Pennsylvania Station.

Their destination — neither the Beaux-Arts Penn Station of yesteryear nor the gleaming hub outlined in new plans that were released the previous week — shares a personality with the surrounding neighborhood: utilitarian, unabashedly commercial, slightly dingy.

Like the station, that neighborhood is facing an overhaul. The Penn Station work itself would involve tearing down Madison Square Garden, building a new arena at the Farley Post Office a block to the west, and converting another a portion of the post office into part of the new train station. In addition, Merrill Lynch may move its headquarters from Lower Manhattan to the site of the Pennsylvania Hotel, across Seventh Avenue from the current train station.

A new tower replacing that historic yet threadbare hotel would join the Epic, a 59-story residential tower that opened near West 32nd Street this year, in remaking the area’s skyline.

HotelPenn02.jpg (20158 bytes)
Photo by Chester Higgins Jr.

But some people say they would be unsettled to see the local streets — now the domain of ticket scalpers, electronics stores, fast-food places and souvenir shops — go glitzy. One person who would feel this way is Bill Schmalfuss, a 64-year-old factory manager who has worked in the neighborhood since 1961.

The other day, Mr. Schmalfuss stood smoking a cigarette outside Hickey’s, on 33rd Street, and lamented the apparent passing of the Pennsylvania Hotel, across the street.

“I’ve heard stories about it, ‘It’s a dump,’ whatever,” he said. “And I’ve never stayed there. But it’s got to be landmarked.” He remembers its famous phone number, PEnnsylvania 6-5000, borrowed for a Glenn Miller song.

Mr. Schmalfuss has heard the arguments that newer and more expensive buildings will add polish and improve the neighborhood’s character. “But I like the character the way it is,” he said. “That’s New York. Anything you want to see, come around here.”

With the dwindling of the old hiring halls and check-cashing places, the neighborhood’s mood has already changed. Mr. Schmalfuss, in fact, was at Hickey’s, an unprepossessing place with pictures of old prizefighters on the walls, largely because the Blarney Stone, his favorite bar on 32nd Street, closed down to make way for another development.

Its last day was Aug. 27, and Mr. Schmalfuss made sure he was there.

“I took off from work,” he said, “saying that I had to go to a funeral.”

Hickey’s, too, is closing, probably before Thanksgiving, said James Byrne, one of the bartenders, though Mr. Byrne said the owner’s decision had less to do with rising rents than with fatigue from running the place for 40 years.

A block over, just down from the Epic and the old Blarney Stone on 32nd Street, business on Halloween was a bit brisker at Wigs and Plus than on an ordinary day.

But sales are slower than last year, said Rosa Oh, the manager. And with the way things are going in the area, she is worried about the store’s lease, even though it runs for about three more years. Costs have been rising, and she does not know what to make of all the plans for the area.

“If anything, hopefully, we’ll get more business because there’s more people coming in,” Ms. Oh said. People in fancy offices wear wigs too, she pointed out. “Everybody wears wigs,” she added, “you just don’t know it.”

On 33rd Street at a somewhat tidier bar called Stout, a Pennsylvania Hotel guest named Gary Pollen stood outside taking a cigarette break. Mr. Pollen, a taxi driver from Dublin, had just arrived, but he said that the hotel, and the neighborhood, were fine with him.

“It’s lovely inside the lobby,” said Mr. Pollen, dressed this day in a windbreaker with logos for the Celtic Football Club and Carling lager. “It looks like a shopping mall.”

If the hotel would someday close, Mr. Pollen had just one question.

“Is there another hotel handy?” he asked. “Because it’s great to have a couple of pubs here and things going on right across the street.”

The following article was taken from the New York Observer :

Hackers Launch 'Save The Hotel' Media Blitz: Pamphlets! Public Access TV! MySpace! Maybe Even Cutting Class!

Activists campaigning to preserve the historic Hotel Pennsylvania have unveiled a slew of new propaganda in anticipation of Thursday's community board meeting on the possibility of landmarking the old inn.

There's a revamped Web site and also some slick new pamphlets, which one guy yesterday heroically distributed outside the hotel under tremendous strain: "My Right Arm from carrying all the bags and holding up the stack of fliers while blabbing is killing me."

There's also chatter about taking the fight to MySpace and public access TV--perhaps even infiltrating Barnes & Noble with "stealth bookmarks."

One guy might even cut class to attend Thursday's 6 p.m. meeting at 227 West 27th Street, Building "C", Haft Auditorium, 2nd Floor, and put in his three minutes worth of two cents.

Victory over demolition-minded Vornado, though, won't come easy.

“Landmarking is not an easy process," as Community Board 5 Chairman David Siesko told the Times' Jake Mooney on Friday. "Neither the community board nor the landmarks committee goes about this process lightly.”

HotelPenn Handout

The following article was taken from the New York Observer :

'A Vote of Conscience': CB5 Moves To Protect Hotel Pennsylvania

by Chris Shott  |  November 9, 2007

You knew it was over when several panelists started singing the old familiar melody to Glenn Miller's "Pennsylvania 6-5000."

A resolution to protect the historic Hotel Pennsylvania from demolition is on its way to the Landmarks Preservation Commission after local Community Board 5 voted 21 to 8 on Thursday night to preserve the circa-1919, 1,700-room hotel across from Madison Square Garden.

Member Howard Mendes called it "a vote of conscience." "You might not love every detail," he said of the McKim, Mead & White-designed building, "but it does qualify... as a landmark."

The resolution passed despite some panelists' criticisms that the building was "not up to McKim, Mead & White's best works," as well as concerns about negatively impacting the related redevelopment of the nearby Farley Post Office.

Started by a small band of computer hackers, the campaign to save the hotel was further bolstered by hotel employees and union members who, for the first time last night, publicly lashed out at owner Vornado Realty Trust's plan to convert the site into an office tower.

"It's time that billionaires like [Vornado CEO] Steven Roth learn that they can't do whatever they want, whenever they want -- you can't just come in and destroy our hotel!" one bellman declared. "To say that we can't do nothing is garbage. We need to make the hotel landmarked."

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Photo by Chris Krupnik

Supporters compared the hotel to other endangered New York institutions such as Coney Island. One even suggested the hotel was more culturally significant today than Plymouth Rock: "Did Glenn Miller ever write a song called 'Plymouth Rock 1620?'"

Still, some give the resolution little chance of succeeding. Board member Joyce Matz, openly frustrated by prior unsuccessful preservation attempts, warned that the commission "will never designate it." She suggested Vornado itself must be persuaded to preserve the structure, which the company has previously likened to "a parking lot."

2008 by David Statler of StatlerWeb
Last Updated: February 29, 2008