Chelsea's historic General Theological Seminary has drawn the ire of neighbors for the development of its eastern flank (rising as the Chelsea Enclave), but it's the Tenth Avenue side of the complex that now has some in a tizzy. In 2005 the GTS signed an agreement with the city that allowed it to operate 60 guest rooms in its Desmond Tutu Conference Center at 180 Tenth Avenue, but only those affiliated with the church or attending a conference on the property would be allowed overnight accommodations. It's been no secret that the Tutu Center has been operating as a full-service hotel in spite of that agreement. But a TripAdvisor reviewer wrote in March that reservations from the public were no longer being accepted, and maybe this is why: the General Theological Seminary is trying to make their little inn legit.
According to a group called Save Chelsea, the GTS will make public its application to convert the Tutu Center into a commercial hotel at a Community Board 4 subcommittee meeting on Thursday night. In an e-mail blast, they write:
For many months, the Tutu Center has been illegally advertising its 60 rooms, particularly on the Internet -- Expedia.com, Hotels. com, etc. Renting rooms to the public like this is totally contrary to the Tutu Center's R7B zoning and is specifically prohibited by an agreement GTS signed with the City in 2005. Now GTS is seeking to make it all legal by applying for a variance. The first step -- of several leading to a final decision -- is going before CB #4. Many people are opposed to allowing a commercial hotel in a purely residential zone -- in particular, it would set a terrible precedent, encouraging every other non-profit institution in the City that wants to use its residentially-zoned property for commercial purposes just to improve its bottom line. But, whether you are opposed or in favor of allowing the variance, it is important that the whole Chelsea community be involved in this decision right from the start. The "start" is Thursday, May 21, 6:15 at Hudson Guild, 441 W. 26th St. We strongly urge you and all our other members to come to this meeting, hear what GTS has to say, and express your opinion.Will the Lord's hotel get the green light? Let us meditate on this.
· The Desmond Tutu Center [Official Site]
· Holy hotel! Chelsea seminary checking in guests illegally [Chelsea Now]