Type in the address of 130 West 44th Street, New York, into a search engine and a web site pops up that indicates the property is a church. Strolling through Times Square and passing this same address reveals an upscale Art Deco hotel. Is it possible it’s a church that allows its parishioners to spend the night in luxury accommodations? Do parishioners give alms of $500 to over a $1,000 a night to stay in a private meditation and prayer room? What exactly is going on here?
The Stanford-White designed building, currently the Chatwal Hotel, was completed in 1905 and was a mecca for actors and actresses of the Great White Way. At one time, the building housed a church complete with parishioners, pews and other accoutrements of a church. The church was granted a tax-exempt status by the city of New York. Over five years ago, things changed.
Master Architect and Designer Thierry Despont renovated and modernized the building into an 83 room luxury hotel, the Chatwal Hotel. The hotel is now a member of the prestigious “Leading Hotels of the World”. Redesigned in a tribute to Art Deco, the Chatwal is resplendent with design features of that period and all the luxuries the modern world has to offer including heated toilet seats and 42-inch plasma screen televisions. Evidently amidst all the changes to the building one very important change was forgotten.
For the past five years, the Chatwal has maintained the tax-exempt status of a church accumulating a tax debt of millions of dollars to the city of New York. The hotel collects a 14.75 percent tax rate from its guests which it has failed to pass on to the city. The tax debt for 2011 exceeds one million dollars. The city has finally caught up with the Chatwal and wants its money.
Now I lay me down to sleep and pray… no longer qualifies the ritzy Chatwal as a non-profit, tax-exempt church.