Described as “the Eloise from hell,” Fannie Lowenstein made the Plaza Hotel her playground. She was apparently such a terror that even Donald Trump placated her by giving in to the demand that he meet with her privately, after buying the hotel in 1987.
There was a time when not many people were in the market for staying at a fancy hotel, so places like the Plaza started taking in monthly tenants to insure some kind of income. One of those tenants was Leo Lowenstein. Though he worked on Wall Street, he somehow ended up with a rent-controlled unit. He passed away in 1961, and the rights of the apartment transferred to his young widow Fannie.
Vice interviewed former general council for the Plaza, Gary Lyman, about the hotel’s most consistent human problem:
“The wait staff had to treat her like a VIP although she wasn’t necessarily nice or generous to them.” Apparently, she treated the employees shabbily enough that for years after her death, whenever anything would go wrong at the Palm Court or something broke, it was customary to shout “FANNIE!!!” because they were sure she was haunting them.
She was a terror when dealing with hotel management, too. “Part of what the law required is that you were entitled to the same services that you got when the unit was first under rent control,” Lyman explains. “In those days, they did a ‘high dusting,’ I think they called it, once a month. It was a whole scheduled cleaning. Painting was required every couple of years; she knew her rights extremely well. And she would push.”
It’s been reported that Trump moved her into a three room suite and gifted her with a Steinway piano so he could move forward with converting the hotel into a condo, but no one can confirm. Considering her personality and his habit of dumping money into bad prospects, it seems possible.
Lowenstein eventually moved out when she became convinced that her poor health was caused by toxic paint she believed was on the walls of her apartment. She died in 1992 at 85 years old. Though she was surely an unbearable person to work around if you were in the Plaza Hotel hospitality department, she will always be a legend to New Yorkers seeking that unicorn rental deal.
Image via AP.
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