Written by Dave Gil de Rubio, email@example.com Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00
Before Morris Moinian’s Manhattan-based Fortuna Realty Group purchased the Garden City Hotel from the Nelkin Family in June 2012, rumors ran rampant. There was hearsay of Donald Trump entering the bidding fray while others wondered aloud about the fate of the long-serving staff. In the subsequent months, news about the hotel was scarce although announcements were made about more than 90 percent of employees getting rehired after reapplying for their jobs. Other news included the hiring away from Hilton Hotels of J. Grady Colin to be the hotel’s new general manager and that a new full-service spa would open in 2014.
On Jan. 30, the Garden City Chamber of Commerce hoped to dispel some of the mystery and intrigue that’s been hovering over this iconic landmark when its 2013 kickoff luncheon was hosted at the hotel itself. The turnout was healthy for this event whose theme was “The Garden City Hotel: What Lies Ahead? ” and guest speakers were Fortuna Realty Group Head of Acquisitions and Asset Management Ashish Lall and Colin.
First up was Lall, who served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was previously an investment banker at Credit Suisse and Cantor Fitzgerald. While he apologized for Moinian’s absence due to a scheduling conflict, Lall assured the audience of the Garden City Hotel’s role as a showcase asset in the Fortuna Realty portfolio. He also pointed out how his parent company was uniquely equipped to handle such a prestigious property.
“Fortuna is really a real estate company that has multiple facets to it. It’s got the ability to acquire existing assets, look at a piece of land and develop a great hotel and it also has the ability to manage and operate. So there’s a kind of integration there,” he explained. “While we do have investments in other asset classes, residential and office properties, our main focus is hospitality because that’s where we see the future going.”
Lall also said that having grown up on Long Island, Moinian had always dreamt of one day coming over and buying the Garden City Hotel. And while it is one of Fortuna’s more notable acquisitions, the relationship between the Village of Garden City and the hotel and the support of the former was a crucial facet in helping the latter not only maintain but improve on its already stellar level of service. As for future plans, Lall gave a general overview of his company’s approach to this point.
“In terms of the actual upgrades that we’d like to do, our goal is to not make any changes right away. We want to come in, see how the hotel operates on a daily basis and understand these operations,” he said. “I think we’ve done that in the last three or four months; simultaneously we’ve also taken time to evaluate and see how we can improve the aesthetics and the overall product. So we’ve actually hired designers, architects and a team of consultants that we typically use for all our new properties to evaluate these things. They are currently putting together designs for the rooms, banquets, carpets and we’re taking our time to evaluate that. While I can’t share anything specific yet, we are committed and have set aside some capital [to do all this].”
Befitting his job as the public face of the Garden City Hotel, Colin was more open about where the Garden City Hotel was heading. Having come from working at the Waldorf-Astoria during his prior travels, he compared the renown of the hotel he was currently managing to that of the Waldorf-Astoria.
“I worked at the Waldorf-Astoria where I’d constantly meet people who all had stories ranging from the fact that their grandmother got married there to having a father who was a mason who worked on erecting the building,” he said. “Not unlike the Waldorf, the Garden City Hotel is the kind of iconic building where people start telling you their personal experiences there once they find out that you work there.”
In addition to constantly praising the excellent service of the hotel’s staff, the general manager also addressed the rumors of mass firings (“We re-interviewed the workers and wound up retaining 94 percent of [our hand-picked] staff”) and how the hotel was being stealthily worked on (“Service will not be interrupted as improvements are made.”) Among the improvements being made was a $100,000 investment in carpets and chairs, the replacement of 60 trees in the hotel’s landscaping lost to Hurricane Sandy and the refinement of the banquet areas for the conferences that make up half of the hotel’s revenue.
Future plans include greater Wi-Fi connectivity, tours of the hotel and providing more information at the front desk that would be more village-focused and provide recommendations about local shopping and restaurants. He also spoke of digging out memorabilia from the hotel’s archives and private collectors and setting up a museum that would focus on the history of the current building and the three others before it. Most of all, Colin reassured how careful and thought-out the outcome of the Garden City Hotel was going to be going forward.
“What you want to do is not bring in the bulldozers and wrecking balls but rather keep doing our upgrades quietly. [This is] not a renovation so much as a redesign that includes enhancing the level of service in a way that will help restore the luster of the hotel,” he said. “There is a legacy that we have a responsibility to continue and not blunder ahead [with]. [It’s] time to add more polish to this legacy.”
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
On May 8, more than 500 fashionably dressed women converged on the Garden City Hotel for the Sid Jacobson JCC’s tenth annual Friendship Circle Luncheon. Notable celebrities on hand were Good Day New York co-host Rosanna Scotto, who was also the event’s MC, and singer/actress Megan Hilty from the Broadway play Wicked and NBC’s hit drama Smash, who entertained the ladies with her favorite songs from both shows.
The Friendship Circle Luncheon was started 10 years ago by Denise Silverberg, as a way to raise money for programs providing support for adults in their 30s, 40 s and 50s that are afflicted by Alzheimer’s. Silverberg’s mother has the disease, so she understands firsthand the role of a caregiver and the stresses involved in taking care of someone who has it.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
Deputy Mayor Nicholas Episcopia attended the HUB Stakeholders Meeting held by Nassau County’s consultants on the Transportation Project. He was joined by EPOA President Judy Courtney, Vice President Chris Mullaney, and Director Leo Stimmler, as well as William Bellmer, a member of the Garden City Planning Commission, Dorothy Episcopia, past EPOA president, and former mayor Robert Rothschild. Bob Schoelle and Brian Ridgeway attended the afternoon session. Garden City is a stakeholder because a large portion of the village lies within the defined HUB area.
As presented, the currently preferred alternative transportation plan appears reasonable and eliminates the construction of a light rail system that would run from the Mineola Station, south behind Arthur Street, and east along the spur adjacent to St. James Street South, as was initially proposed. Nonetheless, as we have consistently done over the years, we will continue to monitor plans for the transportation project and strongly express our opinion if we believe any aspect of this project would be detrimental to the quality of life in Garden City.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
The Garden City JV lacrosse team finished the year with a stellar 14-0-1 record. Led by Head Coach Tom Flatley and Assistant Coach Brett Hepworth, the Trojans overpowered most of their opponents with explosive offensive bursts, tough-nosed gritty defense, and rock-solid goaltending. The offense averaged over 15 goals per game, while the defense allowed just over three goals per game.
The season commenced with a hard fought, triple overtime thriller against Syosset that ended in a 7-7 tie. As the team became more cohesive, most of the next few opponents, including Hewlett, Lynbrook, Carey, Roslyn, Kellenberg, and others, found themselves overmatched against this Trojan team. However, that did not dissuade Ward Melville from putting forth an inspired effort on their home turf for three quarters, before finally falling to Garden City 12-7.
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
The boys and girls high school teams are both rolling and have their sights set on a long run in the playoffs. Both team have faced a number of formidable opponents throughout the season and have successfully navigated their schedules. One thing that has been consistent for both teams has been that their defenses have had to stand tall at key times and shut down very active offenses. Both Coach Finnell and Coach Chapman have made sure that the non-league schedules of their teams will ensure that their teams are prepared for whatever the playoffs can throw at them.
After going the full season last year undefeated, the boys team has three blemishes on their record with losses to powerhouses Ward Melville, Manhasset and LaSalle of PA. With a 9-3 record the Trojans are looking to wrap up the number two seed in the playoffs to force a rematch of the Manhasset game in the County finals. The boys have excelled defensively only allowing 4.25 goals against per game. And if you remove those three tough losses the goals against average drops to 3.1.