NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There are accusations of employee mistreatment at one of New York City’s most famous hotels.
Longtime employees of the Roosevelt Hotel say the owner shut it down during the pandemic and have left them out in the cold ever since.
Dozens of the roughly 500 employee furloughed from the famous Roosevelt Hotel showed up outside what they call their second home, anxious to express their anger and despair.
“We just want answers. That’s it,” one man told CBS2’s Jessica Moore on Monday.
“It’s like seeing your house burn down,” Marcia Fabian added.
Fabian spent 22 years at the hotel’s front desk and was the last person inside last December on the day the pandemic proved to be a storm greater than the storied hotel could weather.
“They shouldn’t ignore all of us. All the years we put into this job, they made money off of us. And we loved doing that, but now they need to answer us,” she said.
Moore asked employee Manuel Braga how it feels to see the hotel boarded up and dark.
“It’s very sad just to see it like this. This place used to shine,” he said.
The Roosevelt’s once gilded exterior is now covered with black plywood, and the farewell message on its website appears to provide more information than has been afforded the hundreds of dedicated former employees.
“A lot of us here have worked for over 20 years, our whole lives, our livelihood, and we still don’t have answers,” said Isalina Minaya. “Is the hotel going to reopen? Are we going to be receiving any sort of severance pay? What’s going to happen to us, to our families?”
So far, the hotel has paid out $7 million in severance to employees, which the union forced through arbitration. That translates to roughly $14,000 per employee over the course of a year.
The owners are currently suing the city to avoid paying the $500 weekly employee severance required of shuttered hotels with at least 100 rooms.
“While the overwhelming majority of hotels are working with employees to reopen the city’s hotels and tourism economy, the Roosevelt has been extremely difficult,” union leader Austin Shafran said. “They’ve refused to provide the union with any information about the future plans for the building.”
The building’s future is key. If it reopens, employees have a right to jobs there. If it’s turned into a residential property, the owners are legally required to pay all employees 15 days salary per year of service — a significant sum of money for many.
“Twenty one years, four months and 13 days,” one employee said in tears.
“I just want everyone to be OK, that’s it. Even if we go somewhere else,” said Minaya. “Just an answer, closure… from someone that shows us that they care.”
The hotel is owned by Pakistani Air Ministry, which has so far refused to comment on the future plans for the building, but says rumors of a sale are purely speculative.
The Roosevelt is one of a handful of hotels suing the city over its $500 weekly severance ruling.