In a blow to the Chelsea community, Larry Lerner has been replaced as editor of Chelsea Now. During his tenure, the newspaper became a true vehicle for community activism, doing it’s part to stem the rampant tide of gentrification that has lately been washing over our neighborhood and New York as a whole. (And taking up the slack of the lately quiescent Village Voice.) Lerner gave a voice to the victims of the real estate boom and helped them to rally opposition among sympathetic politicians to this wholesale demolition of our community. Highlights that come to mind are Chris Lombardi’s articles on the shameless evictions taking place at the Hotel Breslin, and on the scam of illegal hotel conversion at former apartment buildings such as the Marriott Execustay (formerly The Chelsea).
Though he was an exacting editor, Lerner gave me a lot of leeway as a writer, and I’m grateful that he allowed me a forum to discuss, among other things: the wrongs done to Dan Peckham by his landlord Larry Tauber and by the Village Voice; the scandalous tactics of the Shalom landlord family; and the (as-yet ill-understood) Highline scam that is rapidly transforming West Chelsea into a thicket of glass condo towers.
Lerner was a good friend to the Chelsea Hotel during his tenure, giving artists from the hotel valuable exposure in the pages of Chelsea Now. He was on the scene the day of the minority shareholders hostile takeover of the Chelsea Hotel, and wrote a revealing piece about the debacle, showing the human dimension of owner/manager Stanley Bard and the Bard family. In what was probably his last edition of the paper as editor, he printed a photo of the protest signs -- proclaiming "Bring back the Bards" on the facade of the Chelsea.
Ostensibly, Lerner’s ouster came as a result of a plan to downsize the paper, replacing senior editors with their younger, less experienced colleagues—and of course paying them less money. Lately, however, I had begun to discern the subtle pressure of real estate interests on the paper (for instance the unpaid “ads” showing pictures of the new condo buildings in Chelsea), and I would be surprised if Lerner’s championing of the common people’s interests didn’t have something to do with his departure.
Hopefully Chelsea Now will continue to support the people of Chelsea in their struggle to keep their homes safe from greedy real estate interests. The fact that Chris Lombardi will continue to write for the paper is a good sign in this respect. But in any event, Lerner will certainly be missed. Additionally, Nicole Davis the Arts Editor was also ousted and will be missed as well. -- Ed Hamilton