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Chelsea Seminary Hotel Pledges to Re-Hire Laid-Off Workers

By Mathew Katz | December 12, 2012 2:00pm

HELL'S KITCHEN — A group of workers laid off from a former seminary-owned hotel will be able to get their jobs back when it reopens in the coming months, its new owner pledged on Tuesday.

The 12 workers, who were laid off after Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the hotel's essential mechanical systems, came face-to-face with Tyler Morse of MCR Development at a meeting of Community Board 4's Business Licenses and Permits Committee.

Morse's company partnered with the Brodsky Organization to buy the Desmond Tutu Hotel from the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in September, with plans to transform it into the luxury Highline Hotel.

"When we reopen the hotel, we would like to extend an offer for all our former employees to be the first to reapply," Morse said. "We'd bring them on at the same wage scale and give them full credit for their time as employees."

Morse added that the employees would be brought back when the hotel is expected to reopen in April, as long as they are able to pass a background check and drug test.

News that the hotel fired its employees caused an uproar at a Board 4 meeting last week, with members voting to send the hotel's new liquor license application back to committee for review, delaying it for at least a month.

"I just want to make sure there's nothing that will hold us back from being hired," said Angel Cortes, 23, one of the workers who lost his job after the storm.

Morse said the layoffs were purely because of Hurricane Sandy, which flooded the hotel at 180 10th Ave. and shut it down.

"We have not seen a dollar of revenue since Hurricane Sandy," he explained.  "We have not had a guest in house. We haven't seen any money coming into the property."

According to CB4 officials, the hotel's management pushed heavily to resolve the labor issue as soon as possible, and also met with local advocate Miguel Acevedo, who's helped represent the laid-off workers.

"We now support this [liquor license] application," Acevedo said at the meeting. "Your pay scale will stay the same, your benefits will stay the same."

The workers will also get 60 days of credit toward a 90-day probation period if they are re-hired. Morse said the probation is a standard practice for all new employees when his company buys hotels, but that he wanted to recognize the time already served since the Desmond Tutu Hotel was purchased in September.

When it reopens, the hotel will increase its staff from 17 to as many as 30 workers, Morse said, all part of a plan to create a more luxurious environment.

The new jobs created will be posted on the CB4 web page, Morse said.