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Keeping Up The Five-Star Service

Fortuna reps promise Garden City Hotel’s

level of excellence will continue

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.  

Future Plans

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.”

Service And Staff Are Key

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.”

News

Small businessman finds big success

Anthony DePalma has been manager at Covert Avenue’s Raindew Family Center and Pharmacy for 13 years. Last month, at the 30th Annual Small Businessperson of the Year and Legislative Breakfast at the Crest Hollow Country Club, DePalma got his much deserved recognition when he was awarded the day’s top honor by the Covert Avenue Chamber of Commerce, whose members hail from Stewart Manor and Floral Park.  

“My initial reaction was ‘wow that’s very nice,’ I didn’t realize that it was going to be such a beautiful extravaganza,” said DePalma on winning the award. “They did it very, very well. They had a breakfast at the Crest Hollow Country Club and everything was done beautifully. It was just done very, very nicely. Very proud.”

School board shows off improvements at Stratford

This month’s Garden City Board of Education meeting saw a boost in attendance, and not just from district residents. This was the first board meeting to be held at Stratford School, so teachers and students there stopped by to show off the best it has to offer.

Leading the pack was school principal Eileen Vota, who gave the board a tour of the school before the meeting got underway. Along the way, highlights of the capital improvement project were pointed out, all a result of the 2009 School Investment Bond and Energy Performance Contract.


Sports

Winter Swim Lesson Registration Announced

The Garden City Recreation Department will be conducting children’s swimming lessons for village residents at the Adelphi University swimming pool in Woodruff Hall on Saturday mornings. Your child must be six years of age by the start of the program to participate. This 10-week session will begin Saturday, Dec. 6. Classes are taught by Red Cross-certified instructors. The cost is $80. These classes are open to residents of the Incorporate Village of Garden City.

Learn And Play Paddle Tennis

The recreation and parks department will offer beginner level platform tennis lessons at Community Park’s Platform Courts. This five-week course will offer the basic instruction and will be taught by certified platform instructor Sue Tarzian. Each class will be 1.5 hours in length. The cost of this program is $187.50. Classes began the week of Nov. 5. The following classes will be offered:

Beginners - Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Advanced Beginners – Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

This program is for beginners only and participants must be Garden City residents. To register, visit the recreation office at 108 Rockaway Ave.


Calendar

Marvelous Movie Matinée

Monday, December 1

AARP Driver Safety Program

Tuesday, December 2

Here Comes Brother Sun

Friday, December 5



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com