Hilton Garden Inn Gives Staten Island a Helping Hand

by Sandra Foyt on April 23, 2013

in Service Projects

South Beach Boardwalk

Staten Island’s Hilton Garden Inn is like no other Hilton Garden Inn. On a Friday night, it’s the place to see and be seen as cars line up to deposit wedding guests, restaurant patrons, and stylish nightclub denizes. Here is where Staten Island locals go for a good time. But it’s where they stay because they know that they can count on the community bastion both in good times and bad.

HGI employees volunteer

Superstorm Sandy Batters Staten Island

When Superstorm Sandy devastated the Tri-state, Hotel owners Richard and Lois Nicotra opened their door to local residents–80 rooms in the first week–expecting that they would stay during the storm and maybe a few days beyond. Six months later, five rooms are still held by families who have nowhere else to go. This was not a unanimously popular decision.

Richard and Lois Nicotra

Days after the storm, New York Road Runners were expecting to check in for the New York City Marathon, but despite contract obligations, the Nicotras, second-generation Staten Island residents, told them, “we’re not throwing our neighbors out.”

Dolphins - South Beach - Staten Island

Hurricane Sandy Relief

Hilton Garden Inn, whose slogan is “You Can Count on Us,” stepped in to support the Nicotras and Hurricane Sandy Relief. They  housed FEMA and Red Cross relief workers, organized a relief benefit that raised nearly $150,000 from more than 800 attendees, and planned holiday parties to boost hotel resident’s morale.

Because for those families still living in the Hilton Garden Inn–despite the comfortable rooms, indoor pool, and onsite Zagat-rated restaurant–it’s not easy living in a hotel.

It’s not easy living in a hotel, and it ‘s not easy living in a place where most parks and community spaces are still closed to the public.

Staten Island - South Beach - boardwalk construction

South Beach Restoration Project

On a sunny Saturday morning in mid-April, Staten Island residents typically gather by the iconic Dolphin statue before venturing to South Beach for a pleasant stroll on the 1.7 mile boardwalk along the East Shore. Instead, the boardwalk and beach sit behind a chain fence and the “dolphins on popsicle sticks” looked sad (and a little ridiculous) next to dead and dying plants.

HGI volunteers dig up plants. - Staten Island - Sandy Relief

To celebrate Earth Day and support their Staten Island neighbors, Hilton Garden Inn brought in employees from five Tri-state hotels (Staten Island, Chelsea, Times Square, Shelton, CT, and Norwalk, CT) to volunteer on a South Beach restoration project.

While construction crews worked behind the fence to nail down the boardwalk, volunteers dug out damaged shrubs, bringing in new plants, and adding a layer of mulch. Many, many wheelbarrows full of mulch.

Randy Toran holds up a photo found under a bush at Staten Island's South Beach.

Randy Toran became emotional when he pulled out a photograph from beneath a shrub. Someone’s memories, like so many others, had been lost to Superstorm Sandy. But this day, Hilton Garden Inn volunteers helped restore a popular community space; and soon, Staten Island will make new memories.

| Sandra Foyt inspires lifelong-learners to travel the world. A former education advocate and enrichment coach, she lived in Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Southern California before settling in Northeast NY with two teens, an outdoorsy husband, and a well-indulged Chocolate Lab. Sandra contributes to Being Latino, and her portfolio appears at www.SandraFoyt.com. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

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