This Woman Lived at the Waldorf Astoria for Over 50 Years, Owed a Million Dollars in Back Rent

A woman owed $1 million to the Waldorf Astoria in New York when she died.

She stopped paying years ago and refused to leave. Her family doesn’t want her estate – worth more than $2 million – to pay because the property should have “resolved [this] while Cole was alive.”

Lobby of the waldorf Astoria, credit: Hilton

Rosalind “Roz” Cole was an agent who represented several celebrities including Andy Warhol, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland.

Rosalind Cole with her dog

Her mother was a literary agent as well, and in her 20s she was under contact as a singer with MGM records. She married her manager, who was 25 years older than she was. He died in his mid-50s in 1959, and two years later she moved into the Waldorf Astoria. She lived there for 53 years — longer than anyone else.

She produced a magazine, Cookbook Digest, that at one point had 400,000 subscribers. She wrote The Waldorf Astoria Cookbook and also The Dog That Lived at the Waldorf. She worked often from the hotel’s Bull & Bear Bar.

Waldorf Astoria Pet Registration Card, 1966

Cole died in 2014. It turns out though that she didn’t pay her rent — $12,110 per month — for the last 5 years of her life there. She owed restaurant charges as well. At one point she apparently had agreed to give up the place in exchange for forgiving her then-$650,000 debt. But she didn’t leave.

And it’s not easy, in New York, to force someone to. Even someone that doesn’t pay.

Ms. Cole owned a beach house in Bridgehampton valued at $2 million. She died without a will or direct heirs. Ten cousins are fighting to keep the proceeds of the estate, preventing collection of back rent.

“We’re very distant family members,” acknowledged one Florida cousin, Eric Polsky, 60. Polsky had no idea why Cole stopped paying the $12,110-a-month rent during the last five years of her life.

“I hadn’t spoken to her other than when I was probably a young child,” he said.

Another relative, New Jersey resident Joan Borowsky, 79, told The Post, “I haven’t seen her since I was a teenager.”

Quite reasonably, the property owner’s attorney insists “The estate would be unjustly enriched at the expense of [the Waldorf] if it were permitted to avoid paying several years’ worth of rent.”

(HT: Alan H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The desire to cheat someone (or some entity) out of what you owe them is a trait that spans across all income levels.

  2. So the 10 greedy relatives that didn’t know her want $200,000 each instead of $100,000 each. I hope they get nothing.

  3. Since there is no trust and her estate has to go to probate, I’d be quite surprised if the probate court didn’t hold the estate responsible for its debts.

  4. Tough to decide who to root against, the mega-elite NYC hotel or the greedy “family” who want an inheritance from somebody they haven’t interacted with in over half a century.

    For the first time ever I may cheer for the taxman and the attorneys.

  5. She used to live in the Algonquin Hotel until her mom and her moved to the Waldorf.

    Evicting long term residents isn’t all that easy in every market. Hotels sort of have a more complicated relationship with longer term residents than they do with short term visitors.

  6. @Andy, what a ridiculous viewpoint. Clearly the estate will have to pay and the cousins will have to make do with $1M less attorney fees. It only highlights the absurdity of NY eviction laws. Should be able to throw any bum out after a few months of nonpayment regardless of who the deadbeat may be.

  7. What some of you might be missing when suggesting the hotel should have evicted or it should be easier to evict, is that the hotel’s best strategy to recover may have been to simply make a claim against the estate when the time came. While eviction was probably something they could have done earlier, they probably came to the eventual conclusion that bringing this as an unpaid debt against the estate was easier and likely to happen in the same amount of time. So they waited.

  8. @Nick

    They probably will get nothing, and so will The Waldorf. NY Estate taxes in Bridgehampton at $2 million will probably leave $3 for each. Then again, there is no telling how many Warhols are inside that house—-one of those will pay that debt.

  9. @Melissa.

    In New York, deaths on or after April 1, 2014, and on or before March 31, 2015 gave the estate a basic exclusion amount of a little over $2 million. There will be a lot more than $3 left after estate taxes are taken out.

  10. You’d think the Chinese insurance company that owns the Waldorf would have a policy that would take care of that…

  11. @Ed. My thoughts exactly. Plus the hotel avoided the negative press that they would have gotten had they tried to evict an elderly resident — no matter how justified.

  12. If she was living there for 53 years she probably had enough Hilton points to cover the last 5. Is this a paper mistake where she forgot to ask Hilton to use points for the last 5 years?

  13. I was lucky enough to meet this lady and bought some Faberge Martini glasses from her back in 2011.

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