Roosevelt shuttering after nearly a century

Updated 11 Oct 2020

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The 18-story building, constructed in 1924, has 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and underwent an $8.2 million renovation in 2011. —
The 18-story building, constructed in 1924, has 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and underwent an $8.2 million renovation in 2011. —

NEW YORK: The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the tourism industry across America and New York, which has lost more people to this disease than any other city in the world, has been hit the hardest.

Before the pandemic, New York’s Times Square never slept but now its once crowded streets are often empty, and Manhattan looks like a ghost town at night.

With tourists unwilling to risk visiting the city, New York hotels too are running out of business. “Several big hotels in the city have announced that they are closed for good, and some experts say that more shutdowns are coming,” The New York Times reported.

In recent months, the W Hotel in downtown Manhattan, the Hilton in Times Square, the Courtyard Marriot in Herald Square and the Omni Berkshire Place hotel have announced permanent closures.

On Thursday, the Roosevelt Hotel, which is known as the Grand Dame of New York, also announced that it’s shuttering after nearly a century in operation. The 1,015-key hotel in the heart of Manhattan is owned by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and managed by United Hotels Company.

Owned by PIA the hotel not the only victim of Covid-19 crisis

The 18-story building, constructed in 1924, has 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and underwent an $8.2 million renovation in 2011.

The hotel management announced on Thursday that “due to the current economic impacts … the hotel is regretfully closing its doors permanently.” Its final day of operation will be Oct 31. The hotel employees, however, have filed two lawsuits against their management for failing to notify them.

“It’s like a slap in the face. This is a hotel that has produced a lot of revenue throughout the years,” Marlene Cardenas, a front desk agent, told Spectrum News, an outlet associated with the Time Warner media group.

Ms Cardenas said she and her co-workers learned about the decision from messages on the hotel’s website and its Facebook page.

The workers, who gathered outside the union offices of the Hotel Trades Council in New York, said the announcement was also a violation of their contract. “By law they’re supposed to give us a 60-day notice of when they’re closing” said Ms Cardenas.

The Roosevelt Hotel did not respond to requests for comment and now “we are going to be thrown on the street” said Jin Jae Li, an employee for 24 years.

Hotel insiders say that the management shut down its operations because it was losing money since late 2019, when the pandemic hit New York. “Most rooms remained empty and the management did not have the resources to continue paying the employees,” one of the sources said.

September is the most lucrative month for New York hotels. The United Nations holds its General Assembly during this month, which brings tens of thousands of people to the city, including heads of state and government. This year, the pandemic forced the UN to go online. Speeches were recorded in home countries and broadcast as live through the UN system.

This allowed leaders to still reach out the world but deprived New York hotels of their best season to make money. “During the General Assembly, even an average hotel charged as much as $300 a night. Roosevelt charged more. But this September, you could get a room for $100 or less in some hotels,” said a UN diplomat.

Another Roosevelt insider said shutting the doors could also save the management from paying “huge severance packages to its employees”.

But others warned that it may not be easy to do so. Late last month, The New York City Council passed a law to provide vital security to hotel workers, and for enhancing consumer protections.

Under the new law, any hotel that changes management or ownership, or goes into court-ordered receivership, is required to retain the employees for at least 90 days at the same or a higher wage rate.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2020