Hotels Face Demand of Evacuees Colliding With Marathoners

Hotels Face Perfect Storm of Evacuees Colliding With Marathoners
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) workers move equipment and hoses while pumping water out of a subway tunnel in the lower Manhattan area of New York. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

New York City hotels are struggling with space shortages as runners who’d traveled into town for this weekend’s now-canceled marathon compete for lodging with locals renting rooms after their homes were damaged by Atlantic storm Sandy.

“Those marathon rooms were booked months ago,” said Karen Yam, a desk clerk at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Metropolitan on Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan. About 60 to 70 of the property’s 775 rooms will be occupied by people in town for the race, she said yesterday, before it was called off. “It’s been very difficult and frustrating to turn people down from downtown and the suburbs.”

Service has resumed at the area’s three major airports, and runners and their guests had already begun to arrive for the ING New York City Marathon that was scheduled for Nov. 4. The race was canceled today amid “controversy and division,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the marathon’s organizers said today in a statement.

Hotels, meanwhile, are already full of employees of firms such as Morgan Stanley and UBS AG who are renting rooms in Manhattan, along with other local residents unable or unwilling to return to homes ravaged by Sandy’s rain, wind and flooding.

Room shortages are further exacerbated by the mandatory closing of hotels such as the New York Marriott Downtown and the Battery Park Ritz-Carlton in lower Manhattan, the part of the borough most damaged by Sandy. In midtown, Le Parker Meridien and the Salisbury Hotel were evacuated following the partial collapse of a construction crane over West 57th Street.

Juggling Rooms

General managers, “especially at our midtown hotels, are juggling a lot,” said Kathleen Duffy, a spokeswoman for Marriott International Inc.’s hotels in New York City. “Now that most of the airports are fully open again, we are expecting a lot of international guests, families and friends of marathon runners to arrive in the city. It is putting a lot of additional demand on our hotels,” she said before the race was called off.

The New York marathon on average is responsible for filling 40,000 hotel rooms a day in and around the city for five to seven days of race week, according to Kimberly Spell, a spokeswoman for NYC & Co., the city’s marketing office. On Oct. 31, Mayor Bloomberg called the marathon an important contributor to the local economy. The race generated $340 million for the city in 2010, according to an Aecom study commissioned by New York Road Runners, which puts on the race.

The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Airports Reopen

LaGuardia Airport started receiving flights again yesterday following an Oct. 29 shutdown. John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport reopened on Oct. 31.

Marriott, based in Bethesda, Maryland, temporarily lost about 600 hotel rooms in New York City because of downtown closures, according to Duffy. The company’s properties include the New York Marriott Marquis and the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel, which are providing lodging to storm refugees.

Even the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t find a place to stay near the city in the aftermath of the storm. The National Football League team, which is playing the New York Giants this weekend at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will fly in and out on the day of the game because they couldn’t find a hotel in the area with power.

No Alternatives

The property in Jersey City, New Jersey, where the Steelers originally had reservations has been closed after the storm, and the team was unable to find a reasonable alternative, Burt Lauten, a spokesman for the team, said today.

“We do have a lot of guests that have extended their stay beyond what was expected because of the storm aftermath,” Duffy said. “We have told some guests that we are unable to extend their stays any further but some are very adamant that they want to stay and are upset.”

Sandy, the biggest Atlantic storm in history, left homes waterlogged and caused massive utility failures that have kept thousands of residents and businesses without power.

Among them is Sachin Sheth, a 35-year-old Mt. Sinai Hospital physician whose home near 14th Street and Seventh Avenue has been without electricity since the storm. He has been staying at the DoubleTree on Lexington with his roommate’s friend, who’s visiting from San Francisco and was able to secure a room through the weekend.

‘A Slumdog’

“Overnight I became a slumdog,” Sheth said in an interview at the hotel. “Manhattan is now divided into three parts: the slum, the swamp and the surplus. I live in the slum. There’s no power but at least it’s dry. The swamp is mostly uninhabitable and everything above 39th Street is the surplus.”

Consolidated Edison Inc. expects to restore power to the “vast majority” of its affected customers by Nov. 11, with all of its underground networks in Manhattan back online by Nov. 3, Sara Banda, a spokeswoman for the New York-based utility, said yesterday.

Monalisa Johnson, 45, a television-commercial producer, and her husband had to leave their Far Rockaway home when the city evacuated the area, and they stayed with friends in Edgewater, New Jersey, until the house lost power and heat.

After calling hotels in midtown for much of the week, Johnson finally secured two rooms through Monday at the Sheraton New York Hotel at Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street, close to where she works. The rooms, each with two double beds, will have to accommodate five adults and two children, including the family from Edgewater, Johnson said.

‘Sleep Sideways’

“Whoever sleeps on the floor sleeps on the floor,” she said as they checked in last night. “Or we’ll sleep sideways.”

Marriott is working to overcome the shortage by finding space at competitors’ hotels and doubling up guests in some rooms, as the company did with a student group at its New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, Duffy said.

Julie Norris, 42, founder of a consulting firm, checked in to the W hotel in Times Square on Oct. 31 after her West Village apartment lost power and the accompanying heat, leaving it too cold to be habitable. She is sharing two $400-a-night rooms with two friends and her cat. Today they will check out.

“We have to leave,” Norris said yesterday, “because they are completely booked for the New York marathon.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE