Photo: Amit Shabi
Johnson and Borell: In Israel to lobby for the Plaza
Photo: Amit Shabi
Photo: AP
New York's Plaza Hotel: Landmark facing reversal of fortune - from dowager to condo?
Photo: AP

Plaza not so sweet

Employees trying to pressure businessman Yitzhak Tshuva into canceling plans to turn landmark Plaza Hotel building into luxury apartments

Longtime workers at New York's Plaza Hotel are in Israel to lobby against plans by an Israeli businessman to turn the fabled landmark into luxury condominiums.


Neil Johnson, a doorman at the Plaza for the past seven years, and Louis Borrel, a waiter for the last 10, are being shepherded around the country by a public relations firm in an effort to arouse Israeli public opinion to pressure businessman Yitzhak Tshuva into reversing a decision that could cost them their jobs and maintain the historic landmark.


Most of the 900 employees are expected to lose their jobs (300 have already been packing), a move they are trying to prevent. However, they say their struggle has taken on another dimension; it has become the battle over the character and history of New York City.


“Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, American presidents, congressmen and prime ministers from all over the world have stayed at the Plaza. They sat at the bar, smoked cigars and drank martinis. They loved this hotel," Borrel said.


Borrel said he respects Tshuva's right to do as he wishes with his property, but made an emotional appeal to save the hotel.


“Just as you are proud of your heritage, we, too, are proud of ours," he said. "The Plaza Hotel is part of the history of New York, just like the Empire State Building.”


If walls could speak, they'd say, 'Save the Plaza'


Johnson says some hotel suites haven’t changed for more than 100 years. A member of the Strauss family who was on the Titanic stayed in one of them, he said.


“The walls of this hotel have seen so much. If they could speak, they would scream, ‘Save the Plaza.’ I can't believe these suites will be turned into private property,” he said.


Along with the workers' objections, the plan has run into opposition from traditionalists, including celebrity New Yorkers such as Susan Sarandon, Liza Minnelli, Kate Capshaw and Woody Allen.


The workers say the New York public is 100 percent behind them in their struggle.


They also said Mayor Michael Bloomberg would not interfere with Tshuva’s renovation plans, even though he is concerned about the hotel workers' fate.


Generous severance pay


Last year, Tshuva's Elad Properties Group bought the hotel for USD 675 million from Saudi Prince al-Walid bin Talal and British hotel company Millennium & Copthorne, which in turn had bought it from Donald Trump.


Tshuva says he has agreed to provide hotel employees with higher severance pay than legally required. He said the group is planning to bring the Plaza back to its former glory as a major landmark on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.


According to a forecast by Price Waterhouse Cooper, some 5,000 hotel rooms are expected to be built in New York by 2007. Ttherefore, the argument over loss of employment is not realistic, a group spokesman said.


פרסום ראשון: 03.28.05, 22:46
 new comment
This will delete your current comment