A new 99-room La Quinta Inn and Suites opened at 43-17 Rockaway Beach Boulevard last week on, and those running it hope it becomes a fabric of the Rockaway community.
“Everyone's been coming in, complimenting, taking tours,” said hotel manager and Queens native Michelle Mutarelli. “They said they've been watching it from the beginning. They couldn't wait for it to be open.”
From the onset there was some opposition to the plan and fear from residents that it could potentially become a homeless shelter or transient hotel. Mutarelli said that a lot of the perception around the project has changed.
“I actually think it's a great thing because a lot of the people that were opposed to it in the beginning and who picketed and picketed outside the owner's home have come in and given me their resume,” she said. “We are a legitimate business improving the community and bringing jobs.”
Through a local career fair and working with Far Rockaway's Workforce1 center, Mutarelli said 100 percent of the employees are Rockaway residents.
“One lives right across the street,” she said.
She said they're still receiving 10 to 20 resumes a day, despite being fully staffed.
Councilman Donovan Richards applauded Mutarelli and owner Amritpal Sandhu and his family for their effort to hire local. He also noted this is just one piece of an overall upgrade of the Rockaway community.
“There's a real revitalization effort going on here,” Richards said. “Every city agency is actively engaged in revitalizing this area right now.”
Richards said he expects more investments coming into the community for projects like beach protection, housing and community facilities.
“It's an exciting time in particular for this community,” he said.
Rockaway is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, and one challenge is finding a place for people to live while the city repairs their homes, and part of that solution includes the new La Quinta.
“They've agreed to work with a few families who will be having their homes rebuilt in particular in the Rockaways to ensure that they will have housing.” Richards said. “So I want to thank them for also being community partners.”