Good luck finding a New York City apartment bigger than a broom closet for the incredibly laughable price of $500 a month. But for one hellish resident, $500 was all it took to hold down a three-bedroom suite at the fanciest hotel many people would ever know.
During the World War II days — before New York City was overrun with rich inhabitants driving up the price of rent — hotels were struggling with keeping rooms booked. So, to keep income flowing in, hotels began renting to long-term tenants. A Wall Street bigshot named Leo Lowenstein landed a rent-controlled apartment at The Plaza Hotel, which later transferred to his wife, Fannie Lowenstein, when the two tied the knot in 1958. When Mr. Lowenstein died three years later, Mrs. Lowenstein became the apartment’s sole renter, paying just $500 a month in rent for 35 years. And on top of getting gorgeous views of Central Park for what’s now worth $1,000 a night, Mrs. Lowenstein was also a very difficult woman to deal with.
Fannie Lowenstein reportedly made life at The Plaza Hotel the absolute worst for workers with her mean attitude and constant complaining. It was so bad that employees described her as “The Eloise From Hell.” Per Vice:
“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.”
Lowenstein would later move out of her spacious apartment, but only after becoming ill and believing her suite was painted with toxic paint. She died in 1982 at age 85. Luckily for The Plaza, The Lowensteins didn’t have any children.