NYC’s iconic Roosevelt Hotel closes after 96 years

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official-ly cool | Wikimedia Commons

Farah Javed

On Oct. 31, New York’s Roosevelt Hotel will permanently close after 96 years of operation due to financial struggles caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Located at 45 East 45th Street in midtown Manhattan, the Roosevelt Hotel opened on Sept. 22, 1924. Initially owned by the United Hotels Company, the hotel was later bought by the Pakistani International Airline (PIA) in 1999 for $36 million.

Over the years, The Roosevelt Hotel has been the center of historic events. First, it has presidential ties. Besides being named after President Theodore Roosevelt, the hotel is also where Gov. Thomas Dewey incorrectly announced that he defeated Harry S. Truman in the presidential race.

Then, in 1929, the music group Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians had their first show at the hotel. From the hotel’s restaurant named Roosevelt Grill, the group broadcasted their performance of “Auld Lang Syne.”

They continued to perform that song on radio and television for about half a century and it is now a song traditionally sung every year on New Year’s Eve.

More recently, the Roosevelt Hotel has shown up in noteworthy movies and television programs. It appeared in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.

All the interior shots of Maid in Manhattan were filmed at the Roosevelt Hotel as well. Additionally, Mad Men and the Netflix film The Irishman used the hotel in filming.

In a statement to CNN, The Roosevelt Hotel spoke about the future of the 1,025-room property.

“Due to the current, unprecedented environment and the continued uncertain impact from COVID-19, the owners of the Roosevelt Hotel have made the difficult decision to close the hotel and the associates were notified this week,” the statement read. “The iconic hotel, along with most of New York City, has experienced very low demand, and as a result, the hotel will cease operations before the end of the year. There are currently no plans for the building beyond the scheduled closing.”

While New York mourns the loss of yet another historic landmark of its dying tourism industry, the hotel’s employees are outraged.

They say that the hotel did not inform them of any plans to close. Instead, they heard the announcement through social media and the company website.

“We’re going to be thrown on the street,” Jin Jae Li, a staff member who worked at the hotel for 24 years, said.

Marlene Cardenas, a front desk agent at the hotel, expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s like a slap in the face, this is a hotel that has produced a lot of revenue throughout the years,” Cardenas said.

By federal law, employers must give employees at least 60 days of notice for mass layoffs, which consist of 30 employees or more. Since the Roosevelt Hotel failed to do so, the employees’ union intends to sue.

Ultimately, the closing of the hotel leaves Pakistan to make a decision as to what to do with the property.

“Pakistan now has two options, sell it or convert it into a condominium like other Manhattan hotels hit by Covid-19,” a diplomatic source said according to Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest newspaper.

Roosevelt Hotel joins a long list of hotel closures in New York. Already, The Hilton Times Square, Omni Berkshire Place and The Grand Hyatt have been forced to close.

These famous hotels, known for having overbooked rooms and satisfied guests, could not survive during the pandemic, since fewer people are staying in hotels.

Ultimately, as hotels continue to close, New York loses important figures in its rich history and allure.