Workers at migrant hotel in Midtown tell Eyewitness News about safety, health concerns

Kristin Thorne Image
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Workers at NYC hotel housing migrants concerned about safety, health
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Some staff at an NYC hotel housing migrants in Midtown, Manhattan tell Eyewitness News they feel unsafe at work. Kristin Thorne has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Some workers at a hotel for migrants in Midtown Manhattan tell Eyewitness News they feel unsafe at the hotel due to migrants cooking in the rooms and what they said is a lack of oversight of migrants who are supposed to be isolating for infectious diseases.

"The stress is crazy," said Felipe Rodriguez, who works in the housekeeping department at The Row hotel.

New York City is using the 28-story, 1,300-room luxury hotel located on 8th Avenue at 46th Street exclusively to house migrants some of whom are seeking asylum. The city is using the hotel staff at The Row to work there, but the city has yet to disclose how much taxpayer money it is using to house migrants throughout the city.

Rodriguez showed Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne pictures of pots, pans, hot plates and rice cookers that housekeeping attendants are constantly seizing from the rooms.

"If those hot plates catch on fire, the whole place will go down in flames," he said.

A spokesperson for the city said electronic cooking devices are prohibited in all Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers. They said if a cooking device is found it is confiscated.

Another housekeeping attendant who spoke with Eyewitness News said she has to notify security every day about cooking devices in the rooms.

"It's every day you'll find someone cooking," the woman said. The woman did not want to be identified because she fears she will be fired. "You can smell the eggs and rice that they're making," she said. "They burned the carpets with the hot plates."

The workers said they are also concerned about their health. They said no one is properly monitoring whether migrants who are supposed to be isolating in their rooms are doing so.

Eyewitness News obtained a picture of the list of room numbers where migrants are supposed to be isolating for 21 days due to the possibility of having infectious diseases.

"There's no one standing by the door," the female housekeeping attendant told Eyewitness News. "It's very easy to just leave."

The attendant said it's common for migrants who are supposed to be isolating to come out of their rooms and ask for supplies from the hotel staff and to get food.

"I've witnessed them come out the room when it was a quarantine room and they're not supposed to do that," she said.

The city said it has a dedicated team who does wellness checks for those who are isolating and provides food delivery to them.

Although the city said alcohol is strictly prohibited in all migrant shelters, the workers said they often find empty beer and liquor bottles in the rooms and hallways. Rodriguez provided Eyewitness News pictures of a room, he said is at The Row, which shows dozens of empty beer bottles strewn throughout the room.

"The rugs are destroyed," Rodriguez said.

"The conditions of the rooms are horrible," the female housekeeping attendant said. "The carpets are bad. They write on the walls. I would say 95% of those rooms are destroyed."

"They're not holding any accountability," Rodriguez said of the city. "They're not really supervising this the way they should."

Both Rodriguez and the female attendant said they're worried they'll be out of a job once the migrants leave the hotel and hotel management has to fix the property.

"They will have to renovate after they're not there and that's going to put us out of work for God knows how long," the attendant said.

Rodriguez said hotel workers have been instructed not to speak with the migrants about potential issues. He described the working environment as "hostile."

The National Guard is stationed in the lobby of the hotel. The city said the hotel has security on every floor.

A city spokesperson said in a statement, "Safety and security of clients and staff are our top priority and we have security at every Humanitarian Relief Center 24 hours a day, every day."

The manager of the hotel did not want to speak with Eyewitness News about the conditions at the hotel.

The management company, Highgate, did not respond to our emails.

The union for the workers, Local 6, said the union has always been supportive of housing migrants in underused city hotels. The union is not commenting on the allegations made by the workers.

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