Making it safe for the New Yorker hotel
Making it safe for the New Yorker hotel

Dec 1, 2000 12:00 PM

The Roaring Twenties were prosperous years for New York City. Strong financial stability brought a building boom that shaped much of the city's Art Deco architecture we see today. One of the most majestic structures built during that time was the New Yorker Hotel, which opened on January 2, 1930 - one year before the Empire State Building, and two years before Radio City Music Hall opened its doors.

Snapshots of the New Yorker's storied past show not only starlets and swing bands but several shifts in ownership and in fortune.

Today, the New Yorker Hotel is so well secured that only one guest bag was stolen from the lobby this entire year. Security is a key element in the resurgence of the hotel, which closed its doors in 1972 after 42 years of operation. The hotel remained closed until 1976, when the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church purchased it as a headquarters for its missionaries. Since the purchase, the building has been home to church members, as well as church events. As church members have grown older and started families, many have moved out - leaving more of the building vacant.

As a result, the New Yorker Hotel's doors were able to reopen to the public in 1994. Since then, more than 1,000 rooms have become available to hotel guests. In addition, commercial tenants have been added and a lower lobby houses retail operations including a grocery store, gift shop, and a gymnasium for guests.

With a diversity of occupants, security is important, and the security team responsible for the safety of hotel guests, commercial and private tenants is led by Douglas V. Velotta.

Prior to joining the New Yorker, Velotta was the assistant director of security at the Hotel Pennsylvania, also in New York City. Before that post, he was a security supervisor at the Days Inn. He began his career as a uniformed officer on the night shift at the New York Hilton.

Velotta is responsible for the safety and well-being of hotel guests, tenants and staff. "On any given day, between three and four thousand people travel through the hotel. Pickpockets and thieves are all over this city; my job is to make sure they stay out of our lobby," says Velotta.

Card access is used not only for hotel guest room doors, but also for controlling the flow of employees throughout the building. A Northern Computers card access system covers more than 25 locations, including the employee entrance which uses two card stations within 30 feet; one on an outside door, and the other on an inside door after the employee reporting for work punches a time clock. Employees are required to use the service elevator to travel to their work stations. Proximity card readers are located at service elevator entrances in the lower lobby and sub-basement, and the staff must use their proximity cards to enter. Readers are also used in sensitive sub-basement areas such as boiler room locations.

An ILCO Unican card system is used on guest room doors, as well as for maids' closets, room attendant closets, and various storage closets. Other areas that use the ILCO Unican system include a business center, gymnasium and laundromat. Restricted areas such as hotel executive offices, closets housing computer equipment, the general cashier's office, and various supply rooms also use the system.

Twenty-eight fixed black-and-white and color Sony CCTV cameras patrol the hotel lobby and building perimeter, as well as executive floors, accounting office, employee entrance, loading dock, freight doors, lost and found room, business center and the gymnasium.

Motion detectors are employed on the building's fifth floor roof, which is easily accessible from an adjacent structure. The motion detectors are used in conjunction with two huge flood lights that switch on when motion detectors are triggered. A CCTV camera is also located within the area and instantly records the individual setting off the motion detectors.

The control room incorporates ProVideo, Panasonic and Sony monitors, as well as Dedicated Micros Sprite multiplexers, Gyyr VCRs and a Robot monochrome duplex multiplexer.

The security operation employs 15 contract officers. Beyond training mandated by the state of New York, the officers receive 16 hours of on-the-job training consisting of report writing, patrol procedures, and guest relations. They wear a uniform consisting of a black blazer with olive-colored pants, white shirt and tie.

New York, New York: it's a helluva town The New Yorker was a marvel in its "hey day." It cost $22.5 million to build, and was the largest hotel in the world with 2,500 rooms. At its height, famous bands such as the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra and the Woody Herman Orchestra played at the New Yorker, and many stars and dignitaries stayed at the hotel. Even the old Brooklyn Dodgers stayed at the hotel during the 1941 World Series against the Yankees. Although the hotel has changed hands and clientele over the years, it has always attracted and generated its share of excitement.

About three months ago, the night security crew was summoned to a guest's room to attend to a sick person. When they arrived, they found a 21-year-old female unconscious on the floor. EMS was immediately called and it was determined that she had had an overdose. It was later determined that she had heroin in her system. Four NYPD narcotics officers later visited the hotel and told Velotta that the woman was a "mule," a carrier of illegal narcotics, for a drug ring. One of the 10 packets of heroin she had swallowed burst open - causing a severe overdose. The officers wanted to check the room the young woman had been staying in, but they didn't have a warrant. Velotta granted them access to the room and, after making a visual check, the officers left. The next day, Velotta searched the room and found a brown paper bag tucked into the back of a dresser drawer. "The bag was packed with condoms filled with raw heroin. I immediately summoned police, and turned it over. They determined that it had a street value of more than $300,000. The woman, who was brought back from death three times in the emergency room, was subsequently arrested," adds Velotta.

Because of a recent affiliation with Ramada Inns, the New Yorker Hotel is planning to change its clientele from tour-and-travel to a more corporate/business clientele. Velotta explains, "The change in clientele will necessitate an upgrade in video surveillance and physical security techniques. In order to expand surveillance, plans are in the works to purchase some pan, tilt and zoom cameras to more adequately protect both guests and property," he concludes.

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