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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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 | Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @SandraFoyt.