all those remote corners

I knew it was coming; now I’m examining the result almost as an experiment, as dispassionately as I can.

After three-plus weeks of messing around with the story about the Hotel Breslin, the SRO whose tireless tenants are trying to fend off its conversion to luxury quarters, I was hardly surprised when Breslin Tenants Association President Stephen Colvin reported a phone call from Greg Beyer of the New York Times. “I told him I only wanted to talk to you,” Colvin said with a startling loyalty. Sensibly enough, once I was done with piece #4, the association relented and let him into a meeting.

Looking into Mr. Beyer’s work, I found out that he was one of those Columbia J-school golden children, graduated in 2007 winning every award possible and publishing in the Times while still in RW1 (Reporting and Writing 1).. I also learned that Beyer, whose pieces often adorn the paper’s The City section, had a wonderful affinity for historical material and a tight, elegant prose style. I thought, Oh, OK. He’s good. It might not be the skanky real estate story I’d feared (like this 2005 piece by Patrick Healy, “The Art of Persuading Tenants to Move”).

Through the magic of social networking sites, I contacted him, and he was gracious: “My story will definitely mention your series, and I hope prompt readers to check it out, since I just won’t have the space to reach into the story’s more remote corners.”

He kept his word in today’s story and mentioned Chelsea Now, if not that we’d seen enough there for four stories. The title’s reference to the Chelsea Hotel is appropriate, and he found a wonderful character for his narrative lede. He mentions the rest simply as tenants’ complaints, and their planned legal appeal as probably doomed – which fits the elegiac tone of the article.

The rest of my thoughts I’ll keep to myself, lest I be accused of nothing but jealousy. It’s a very skilled piece, and God knows it’s hard for me to compress that much info so elegantly. I will be curious to see how the tenants and their lawyers feel.

And I’m nothing but amused that GFI Capital wouldn’t talk to the Times, either. I’d thought for sure they’d jump at the chance to share their “vision” for the “reconstruction of two boutique hotels in the Chelsea area of Manhattan” with the Gray Lady. Maybe they’re waiting till Patrick Healy calls.

Published by chrislombardi

Journalist, novelist, educator.

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