Nobody would hear him scream. But he screamed anyway.
It was about year ago. Tony Krsnich was inside the Chatham, the once-iconic building vacant now for 20 years. The Chatham's past lives — as an iconic hotel, a stylish apartment building and a TWA dormitory — had long been obscured by piss, thick layers of dust, and neglect. Krsnich was the latest in a string of developers hoping to restore some glory to it and to the stretch of Broadway where it has stood — first proudly and now barely — since the 1920s.
After buying the Chatham, Krsnich tried to visit a few times a month. That day last winter, he got a glimpse of the Chatham's current incarnation. He heard the shuffling of feet and, down a dark hallway, he saw shadows shifting. Six figures emerged from the dark: four humans, one malamute and one pit bull, the latter presumably hungry for a tussle.
Krsnich had always expected to stumble into someone's afternoon of rudderless indulgence. He never imagined that it would end well. "You turn one of those corners, and you walk into a bunch of guys on crack," he says today, recounting his recurring nightmare. "I was scared to death."
So he screamed. Partly out of fear and partly out of hope that these particular dopeheads were the running types, he yelled and yelled, willing them to disappear. Then he noticed: "They were out of their mind on drugs.
"They didn't know why I was yelling," he says. "They probably wanted me to stop yelling."
He calmly told them to leave. They asked if they could first retrieve their stuff from upstairs. Krsnich said yes, so they gathered sleeping bags and other belongings before disappearing. What they left behind — what countless others like them left behind over the past two decades — are the ruins of lives lost to the kinds of things that happen in vacant buildings on streets like Broadway.
Now, Krsnich is set to gut the ruined building and start on his new Chatham, a $9.3 million apartment building for seniors that he hopes to finish by next fall. But first, he asked The Pitch if we wanted to take a look inside.
We did. (We're weird like that.) So we sent photographer Brooke Vandever to capture the end of the old Chatham. This is what she found.