From the NY Times:
Sam Chang, the hotel king of New York, surveyed a portion of his domain from West 39th Street, a gritty block south of the Port Authority, from where he can see not one, not two, but a half-dozen of his hotel sites on a single block. “They ought to name this block for me,” he said.
Investors, real estate brokers and hotel chains love Mr. Chang. Community groups, some elected officials and the hotel and construction unions, not so much. Critics contend he has built his empire barely within city codes and are vowing to stop his freewheeling, nonunion operations in manufacturing districts like the garment center of Manhattan.
“Sam is a guy where, if you sign a deal with him, it better be signed in blood,” said Steve McInnis, political director of the New York City District Council of Carpenters. “He’s definitely on our watch list.”
A year ago, Mr. Chang, a high school dropout turned mogul, predicted he would retire in 2010. But in a concession to hard times, he said he had pushed his retirement date to 2013 and dumped his bodyguard, though not his Rolex or his 2.5-carat diamond ring.
Mr. Chang throws an annual New Year’s Eve party in Flushing for 200 real estate, construction and financing executives. He is, by his estimation, a “good drinker” who prefers Johnny Walker Blue, a rare Scotch that sells for $220 a bottle.
Mr. Chang’s hotels have been popular with budget travelers, but not with New York City community boards or the construction and hotel workers’ unions. Since December 2006, his construction company, Tritel, has accumulated 207 serious building violations, 47 of which are still unresolved. Community Board 7 in the Bronx often found him unresponsive when work on a hotel near Fordham University weakened the foundation of an adjoining home, flooding the basement.