With so few people traveling in 2020 and a good portion of 2021, hotels languished. Some were able to stay on their feet by acting as quarantine hotels, housing first responders or reinventing themselves as schools, wedding halls, solo office space, etc.
Still, some hotels didn’t survive. In February 2021, we listed all the hotels in New York City that had permanently closed due to Covid. About a year later, we updated that list (although more had closed, 2 had, happily, reopened).
One of the saddest closures of that original February 2021 list was the Roosevelt Hotel. Besides being, by far, the largest hotel that had closed, it was also one of the oldest hotels in the city – it opened, at 45 East 45th Street, in Midtown, near Grand Central Terminal, in 1924.
Unlike the fate of the classic Hotel Pennsylvania (at one time the largest hotel on the planet), the owners of the Roosevelt Hotel (Pakistan International Airlines [PIA]) have expressed little interest in selling the shuttered property. As recently as early 2023, PIA was considering a joint venture to operate the hotel, perhaps as part of mixed-use development.
However as of May, 2023, the Roosevelt Hotel will be used for a different project – housing undocumented immigrants.
NYC’s Mayor Eric Adams announced on Saturday that the city plans to reopen the hotel as the city’s main “asylum seeker arrival center” and shelter. He said the new asylum seeker arrival center will be the first of its kind in the five boroughs, as it joins 8 other Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.
Adams continued that migrants at the center will have access to legal, medical and reconnection services.
The Roosevelt Hotel will initially open 175 rooms for children and families, with the eventual goal of having approximately 850 rooms available. Another 150 rooms will be set aside for migrants who are stopping in New York on their way to other locations, the city said.
To reopen the hotel, the city had to reach an agreement with the hotel’s unions that “restores union jobs but also provides tens of millions of dollars in compensation for workers that were without jobs since the start of the pandemic,” said Rich Maroko, president of the New York Hotel & Gaming Trades Council.
The cost of running the Roosevelt Hotel center has been included in the $4.3 billion the city estimates it will spend on the migrant crisis by July 1, 2024, said a spokesman for Mayor Adams.
I’m sure that using it as a shelter for migrants wasn’t in the plans for the builders and owners of the Roosevelt Hotel 100 years ago. However, the fact that it’s still here, will still have employees inside, and won’t continue to virtually rot, is significant. I’ll take it.
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