Excelsior Hotel on West 81st Sold for Nearly $80 Million; New Owner Known for ‘Pricey Rentals’

Scaffolding shrouded The Excelsior Hotel for years.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The Excelsior Hotel, at 45 West 81st Street, has been sold for nearly $80 million to Emmut Properties, “a developer that specializes in converting buildings to pricey residential rentals,” according to the New York Post on Tuesday. The seller was Harry Krakowski.

The building is a landmark, originally opened as a residential hotel in 1922, under the name of The Hotel Standish Hall. “It became the Excelsior sometime in the 1950s,” according to Overnight New York. “Until the late 1990s, it was a congenial budget hotel with layers of old paint on the walls, simple furniture and $75 rooms. It also had a terrific old-fashioned coffee shop ($2.25 for pie and coffee) overseen by a hostess who looked like Tallulah Bankhead and wore evening gowns and marabou boas when seating jean-clad guests for bagels and eggs. The hotel received a radical redo in 1997, which moved it up-market and increased the comfort level….”

The Excelsior was a popular place to stay during the Thanksgiving holiday, because of its location on West 81st Street, one of the blocks where the balloons for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are inflated. The Excelsior was also once the home of the Latin restaurant Calle Ocho, which opened there in 1998. Calle Ocho eventually moved to 2756 Broadway, at 106th Street.

Beginning around 2016, The Excelsior was used by the City to house families experiencing homelessness. In August 2016, WSR reported [the City] was “renting some rooms in this commercial hotel to help meet its legal obligation to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers who would otherwise be turned out onto the street. Although this hotel is not being converted into a homeless shelter, DHS provides 24/7 security and on-site social services for families during their stay there.”

According to the Post, the former owner was facing financial problems that led to the sale of the hotel. “Despite being closed, the 133,000 square-foot hotel with 215 rooms has a city property tax bill of $1.3 million — with half of that due Jan. 1. And because the Excelsior failed to reopen by Nov. 1, a new city law called for the former owner, Harry Krakowski, to pay severance of $500 per week for 26 weeks for each of his employees.”

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 19 comments | permalink
    1. Millicent Broderick says:

      No tax relief from the authorities. Sad situation.

    2. UWSer says:

      Why do they still have a Hotel Loading Zone in front? It’s being used as free parking by the people working in the building.

    3. B.B. says:

      When not engaging in race or class baiting, BdeB administration other hate was on hotels.

      No other industry or employer in NYC or NYS for that matter was required to pay $500/wk for 26 weeks “severance” (which works out to $13k per hotel employee), but mayor and city council saw fit to stick it to hotel owners.

      This city nor state never learns, they continue to over regulate to point of strangulation, and businesses of all sorts keep packing up and leaving, or just shutting down.

      • mandatory rehiring of hotel employees was a hotel union initiative. The hotel unions supported DiBlasio on his bid for president so that was the payback to the hotel union. No one did more to hurt hotel owners that our out going mayor.

    4. Carmella Ombrello says:

      I think the “hostess” at the Excelsior Coffee Shop was, along with her husband, the owner. Her name (if I have dragged it correctly out of the mists of time) was Silvia, and she was the kindest, friendliest, albeit dramatic person. I lived in a building on that block of 81st many years ago, and that coffee shop was, like Cheers, a place “where everybody knew your name.” The hotel itself was popular with foreign flight crews and you’d hear everything from Belgian to Bulgarian spoken in the lobby, which sported a world clock.

    5. Carmella Ombrello says:

      This would seem to be the time and the place to thank Carol and the rest of the West Side Rag staff for the pleasure of good journalism and useful local information. A happy New Year to all, and long may the Rag wave.

    6. Valerie says:

      Calle Oche was on Columbus, then in the late 00’s moved into the Excelsior & then moved to 106th!

    7. So sad!
      The location and staff were a pleasure.
      I’m a west slider from the early 1970s.
      I stayed at the hotel with my visiting children

    8. Interesting, as there was a Commercial Observer article a couple of days ago about this very tax issue, ‘Property Taxes Take Huge Bite Out of NYC Hotel Revenue’.

    9. patricia grandison says:

      Breaking my heart. Has always been a classic New York hotel since I moved to that area in 1968. I still miss the coffee shop where you also could get an old fashioned milkshake. Never was aware it was housing homeless families, making me proud that it existed without the not in my backyard,

    10. Jason Ransone says:

      The UWS will soon be a wasteland. Over-thought, over-woke, over-regulated driving everyone out of business. Bus lanes (but no buses in them) have taken up all former employee parking. Bike lane now owns the entire east side of CPW, again leaving employees no where to park a car. Shanty-town restaurant extensions have clogged ever Avenue and side street to the point you cannot move. Bloomberg began this idiocracy policy to change the nature of the city. BdB then took it to new heights. Homeless people everywhere urinating at every corner. Crime at new levels. When will people learn and elect politicians who think. Never. So NYC is in a death spiral and the UWS a fantastic symbol of how so many urban policies piled one on top of the other will blow a place up. Boom.

      • Liz says:

        Agree completely; has it ever occurred to the bike advocates that there are plenty of aging people who can’t use a bike? or that it might rain sometime or they might need to transport a large object? Taking a taxi these days costs a fortune–will the congestion charge go away now that half of midtown is working from home and there is no congestion?

      • Cars are killing us. says:

        Jason, There is a subway stop on that block. There is NO reason for employees to drive their gas guzzling cars and to also use up our scarce public space. Don’t let the door hit you in the “brains” on your way out.

        • Reality says:

          The snide commenter plainly does not understand that a “subway stop” “on that block” does not mean that the working class folks in question find using that stop tenable. I know that – having been one myself – that many workers have to take hours worth each day of public transportation and walking to trains to buses get to a specific subway stop. It’s not often at all viable. Public transportation simply does not work for many who live in the outer boroughs but are low paid employees working in Manhattan.

    11. Michael UWS says:

      Big ticket real estate a buyers market; 80M is a bargain. Richard Burton used to stay there, have breakfast at its lobby coffee shop.

      By the way anyone noticed: The Plaza has CLOSED its public access lobby stores, walk thru, Food Celler to the Public, with a ‘sorry guests ONLY’ entry policy. Covid? Partly, but mainly likely thank CityHall dereliction of public safety policies escalating potential steet crime risk overflow. Very sad, counterporductive for visitor draw and emblematic of the submentals at NYCCouncil & s mayor’s notorious signature incomptence hopefully on its way out with Eric taking charge. Let us all hope for safe winter, early spring.

    12. B.B. says:

      Commercial real estate in NYC, which includes everything from hotels to rental buildings, pay the highest share of property taxes. Condos and co-ops are next, with 1-3 family homes dead last.

      City cannot afford to reduce that cash cow (commercial real estate rates), because someone has to pay for the bizarre and bewildering array of social and other spending that is NYC’s budget.

      Meanwhile taxes on 1-3 family homes actually did receive reduction in taxes for 2022.


    13. Susan Epler says:

      Here we go again losing another collective memory of The Upper West Side from the 20th Century. My family started staying at The Excelsior in the 1950’s when my former spouses family stayed during a trip cross-country. Subsequently, many family members stayed as my apartment was too small to accommodate visitors. Prices were reasonable compared to midtown hotels. Slowly there were changes as costs inevitably increased in The Big Apple. The location was and is fantastic. Now another condo for the very wealthy who have forever altered the character of our community.

    14. m.pipik says:

      When I first started going to Shakespeare in the Park about 1970 we were able to get our tickets early enough to eat before the performance.
      The coffee shop in the Excelsior was the only nearby place to get a meal.