Victoria, now the hotel’s general manager, recalled the nightly protests that took place in front of the building at 59-40 55th Road. He remembered the anger of Maspeth residents who did not want the site to be converted into a shelter.
Due to local opposition, the protesters eventually won out, as DHS abandoned its plans for a full conversion. Instead, DHS announced it as a “prospect site,” and rented out two floors to house a few dozen homeless people. According to the hotel owner, this was not agreed on, but the major loss of guests forced the hotel to rent to DHS to stay open.
The arrangement lasted until late July last year, Victoria said, when DHS and the hotel’s ownership group made a decision to no longer house homeless New Yorkers at the hotel. A day later, the Holiday Inn Express Maspeth embarked on a multi-million renovation project that is nearing completion.
With the controversy behind them, Victoria said the Maspeth hotel is now looking to turn a new leaf and restart its relationship with the community.
“We want to make sure they understand that even though we had our disagreements, we’re still here and want to provide service to the community,” he said. “We want to put our best foot forward.”
The renovations began last August, right after DHS moved out the working homeless men who had been living in the hotel rooms. Victoria described the makeover as a complete refurbishment of the building, “top to bottom” and “inside and out.”
The exterior of the building was completely redone over the summer, and the hotel is now finishing up improvements to the interior. Four out of the hotel’s six floors have been renovated, he said. Every room is furnished with the new IHG furnishing. Meeting Room and Fitness Center will also be fully functional within a month.
The last leg of the overhaul includes finishing up the lobby and a few of the hotel’s amenities, including the business and fitness centers. Victoria said by the general contractor’s timeline, the project will be completed by November.
The renovation was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many employees to be furloughed. For three months, the project was at a standstill.
During the pandemic, the Holiday Inn Express Maspeth stayed open. It housed nurses from local hospitals, providing health care workers a place to isolate away from their families to prevent the spread of the virus.
“That helped us a lot,” Victoria said. “If we didn’t have nurses here, we would’ve had to close temporarily.”
The general manager noted that the hotel also caters to business travelers, who returned less than two months after the pandemic began. He said more customers are now picking up where they left off and continuing with their lives.
“There are guests right now in three of the six floors,” he said. Victoria said the hotel team wanted to apologize to the community for any “emotional distress” it may have caused over the last few years. He said they want to become more involved.
They will look to hire locally, and are working on offering discounts for local residents who may be in transition or apartment hunting, said Victoria, who noted that half of his staff live within 10 minutes of the hotel already.
He noted that with the economic impact of the pandemic, people who are struggling may just be one missed paycheck away from being homeless themselves. Victoria encouraged residents to come by, speak with the staff and look around the building to see the changes for themselves.
He hopes that the community will in turn view the Holiday Inn Express as a good neighbor. “We’re here, we’re renovating and we want to see what we can do for the community,” he added.