Notorious welfare hotel: The Martinique

Welfare hotel—now that’s a term you don’t hear much anymore, unlike in the 1970s and 1980s; in response to a growing homeless crisis back then, the city put up thousands of families in shoddy, rundown hotels across the five boroughs. 

No hotel epitomized New York’s bad old days like the Martinique, on 32nd and Broadway. The 16-story building started out in 1910 as an elegant French Renaissance–style residence in what was then part of the theater district. But as the theater district moved north, the Martinique slid into decline. By 1974, the city was warehousing homeless families there.

Newspapers were always running stories about the harsh life in the Martinique: families cooking on hot plates, creepy characters in the halls, spray-painted numbers on the doors. Finally, by the late 80s, the city emptied out the Martinique and other welfare hotels for good.

Today it’s a much spiffier place, renamed the Radisson Martinique. The original building details and sign remain.

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108 Responses to “Notorious welfare hotel: The Martinique”

  1. Lidian Says:

    I remember that term very well (I grew up in the 60s and 70s) – that is a lovely building. They really knew how to build back then.

  2. Lidian Says:

    I am also over at the Virtual Dime Museum but WP does not allow me to indicate that –

    http://thevirtualdimemuseum.blogspot.com

    Hence my interest in NYC.

  3. Regina Says:

    I remember the “welfare” hotel all too well. I used to live there as a homeless welfare client. From what I presently know, that place is a far cry from my previous experience.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Regina, I am researching this hotel and what it was like when it was a homeless shelter. Could you tell me more of what it was like? Email: mrs.crotts@yahoo.com

    • angel Says:

      did you get the info necessary for your story? i was in room 101 in the hell hole, rat, waterbug infested place with my 5 sons. the youngest was 3weeks old…..it was my 1st experience with homelessness. i didnt even know it existed unti friday the 13th of november 1987. omg i can share some info. the security guards there fathered quite a number of children there…

      • MIlly Says:

        I too lived there from 85 -87 I was 12-13 years old. we lived on the 11th floor apt 1101-1102.what horrible memories for me but it made me the person I am today. I remember one of the security guards got muredered on the 11 th floor, blood all over the place, not something a young girl should see…

    • alice Says:

      Wow.. the stories.. I remember the room number(s) I stayed in but do remember living there. Funny it was a homeless shelter and the govermentment paid hundreds/thousands for families to live there. It wasn’t FREE ! and when you didn’t get the money from welfare, they would lock you out. We had to do dishes in the bathtub, cook on hot plates. Use the window ledges in the winter as our refrigerator. What we could store in the room, would be up to us protecting against the rats getting to it. Wow.. innocense is bliss, looking back I had no idea how bad it was.

    • young-teach Says:

      If you want to know the horrors of that place, read “Rachel and her Children” by Jonathan Kozol. It’s ironic, this city.

      • Stacy Says:

        I am currently reading that for my Social Problems class at Hollins University, which is what prompted me to look up this hotel. I am horrified. I was such a young child in the 80s and lived in middle class ignorance. I am disgusted and in tears reading this book, and will be doing more research on homelessness then and now.

      • Stanley Ribet Says:

        yes sir yong-teaco.lol

    • Stanley Ribet Says:

      you are a survior, i worked in that area.lol

  5. Josh Says:

    My mother, sister and i stayed there after our apt burned down in the Bronx. Funny the red cross thought it was a good place

  6. Amber Says:

    Jennifer- if you haven’t read it already, read Rachel & Her Children by Jonathan Kozol, he spends a great deal of time at the Martinique in the 1980s reporting the experiences of the families that lived there!

  7. Paige Says:

    We just read the book for one of my college courses. I go to a private college in Iowa. It is a great eye-opening book! I am now writing a paper about the “updates” of the Kozol book. We are supposed to find current statistics and/or stories about homelessness in NYC as it exists today. If anyone can help or give me some insight about the current situation, that would be great! I am researching for my paper, and my research led me to this site.

  8. creature Says:

    I lived in the matinque hotel from may 1985 to may 1988
    my family was depicted in rachel and her children

  9. michelle Says:

    I’m reading Rachel and her Children Right now and it’s an incredible look back on the city in the 80s. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a child in nyc 20 years ago, let alone in a welfare hotel. Amazing. Creature – Thank you and your family for sharing your story.

  10. Nina Says:

    My family lived in that hotel for over 5 years. This is the place that I lost my father and brother. They were murdered in cold blood. Today I’m researching how Mayor Koch had a hand in turning this hotel into a shelter filled with rampant crimes that have went unpunished. Unfortunately for a lot of people that I have known that have lost their families and wasn’t able to bounce their lives back, I have overcome and am that rose that grew from the concrete.

    • Julian Says:

      Nina-

      I also lived there for years. I do remember all the bad things that took place at the Martinique. I would love to talk to you more about our experiences.

      If you would like to get in touch you may email me at jpuff99@msn.com

      Thanks, Julian

    • angel Says:

      i cannot imagine being in that hell hole for years! i was there with my 5 sons and husband november 15th 1987 and moved out on my birthday march 4th 1988. we were moving out at about 430pm, it was storming outside. the police were coming into the MARTINIQUE HOTEL as we were moving our things out to arrest the man next door to us for sexually assaulting his 6 MONTH old daughter!! it was a family of 8 kids. if i had to be there years i cant imagine what i would be like today……..

  11. Kate Whitteker Says:

    I have been researching and writing about the homeless for 15 years. Jon Kozol’s book is one of the most relevent research studies I have ever read. Another is Elliot Leibow’s Tally’s Corner and Tell Them Who I Am. Both of those texts take place in Washington, DC. To those of you who lived there–I’m sure it was even much worse than Kozol described. He saw so much–but he was not there every day. I agree with Nina–how could the city pay so much for so little when even a fraction of that money could have provided each family with a decent home to live in and raise their children? My heart goes out to those parents who struggled every day just to feed their children and try to keep them safe. Government run programs are usually notoriously inadequate and poorly run. Just the EAU idea is ridiculous! Just think–they actually paid someone to figure out this program!

  12. wildnewyork Says:

    Has anyone published a book recently that looks back at the horrors of welfare hotels and explores how such a terrible (and expensive) idea became reality in the 1980s? It would be very interesting to find out who put the wheels in motion.

  13. Kate Says:

    wildnewyork,

    I think that would be a better use of government money- to track the trail of paper back to the designer and instigator of this program.

  14. Linda B Says:

    WOW..i remember these hotels. I didn’t live in the Martinque but i did live in several others in the 90’s. Hotel Latham. Times Square Hotel..The Carter. It wasn’t the worst years of my life..(those came after) but i had some really terrifying and surreal experiences there. I look back now and am so grateful that i made it out alive and in one piece.

  15. Kendall M Says:

    I am writing a book and it speaks in part to the three years i lived in a welfare motel with my mother and younger sister. I too am a rose that grew from concrete and now live a life far removed from the horrors of that life and time. I was a teenaged girl (1985 – 1988 age 14 -17) then and what it did to my self esteem is worse than anything I may have encountered there. I am feeling really grateful to my mother right now because she did any and everything to keep us safe. Thanks Mommy!

  16. Phil Says:

    I have to say I lived in the Martinique for five years as a child with my mom, three brothers and sister. Although, it was not the best place to grow up I called it my playground. Iremember rollerskating up and down the halls on the 10th floor or going down to Madsion Square Garden to play video games where many preditors would try to bribe boys with quarters. I have witnessed a lot of things a little boy should have not seen. I was actually thinking of writing a book of my experience while my mind is still fresh, but I would not know where to begin. There is soooo much to tell. Anyway, I thank my mom for being soooo strong and protecting all of her five children. Many mothers turned to drugs to cope. My mom kept focus and I love her so much for that.

    • Julian Says:

      Phil-

      I also lived there for many years. Alot of bad memories. I would like to talk further with you to catch up on our times at the Martinique.

      You may email me at jpuff99@msn.com

      Thanks,
      Julian

    • Lisa Says:

      Is this who I think this is? Your brother J, *I wont reveal the rest of his name or letters* Your brother J…. was older then you, you were like 7 years younger. Your 3 sisters. If that is you please reply.
      Your sister’s First letter of her name was with a L…, and there was Rachel, and we used to hang out. Our families knew each other before going to the martinique hotel, if this is you. But I dont remeber if its who I think it is. Your sister wore glasses, so did you.
      If so respond, and if this isnt you then by all means ignore this post I just posted man.

  17. ron c. mcqueen Says:

    i was a security officer at macy’s in 1985. i was nineteen years old. i remember those wild kids from the martinique hotel used to run inside macy’s 34th street and run out with merchandise. those kids from the martinique were a constant problem for macy’s security, especially on the weekends. ronmcqueen72@yahoo.com

  18. Mary Lou Says:

    I am reading Rachel and Her Children for a class at Iowa State University and decided to look into information on the Martinique Hotel and came across this site. It is interesting to me to read about people who actually grew up in the hotel, it makes it more realistic and it easier to put in perspective. I father, now deceased, grew up in New York City in the late 20’s and the 30’s and he use to tell some good stories about hitching rides on the back of milk trucks and swimming in the Hudson, which made him very sick. He grew up as a single parent child in a brown stone building near the Museum of Natural History.
    Thanks to all of you who share your stories about living in these hotels.

    • Lisa Says:

      I knew Rachel and her children. Her daughters name was Rachel. Her real name I cant recall, it was so long ago. There was 5 kids. Two boys and 3 girls.
      I pretty much know there names but wont reveal it. They did leave new york though and moved to New jersey, that I will say. I lost contact, I was young at the time. I wish I could contact them to see how they are doing.
      They are older now. I wish them the best of luck you know. Times change the pain and heartache of being young and homeless really gets to you, still to this day.

      It affects you so much that you really don’t know if your coming or going and your just happy to be alive. I own my own home now.

      I know one thing from all that I have been through, I remember where I came from and know that I am a better person from going through this experience. No one should have to go through it.

      I empower myself as much as I can.
      Thank god I am alive.
      Take care.

  19. Lisa Says:

    I also lived in the martinique welfare hotel in 34 street in manhattan. My family and I did, and we knew several people there to, that were also in the same situation as us.
    I remember the elevator getting stucked and they had to help us out, and I had to walk up alot of flights of stairs. We got robbed there when we went out, and they stole our clothes etc.
    I knew some people there that were nice. I knew a mom, who had 5 or 6 kids.
    It had a rat infestation like you could not believe, and cooking with a hot plate was better then nothing. You know something it kept our family together, to a certain extent, and while crime, or drug dealing did plague the martinque hotel, it didnt really affect me, except for the robbery etc.

    I went to school in the morning, and went home to the *hotel* at the evening and ate one meal. We slept in one room, while my single parent slept in the other room.

    What more could we expect, there were other incidents but like I said, as long as you mind your business, and stuff then you didnt worry, it was ok , it was better then nothing.

    It was a very sad state of affairs, but if u ever been to the brooklyn arms welfare hotel, I saw the biggest rat, *size of a cat, walked over my foot, and I was scared shitless having to sleep there. Let me tell you life is not fun. I been through shelters in nyc, from the forbell family shelter, to other shelters.

    I have been homeless alot, and being homeless affected my schooling, etc. Still now it affects me. After 20 years almost. Life goes on though.

    • none Says:

      i wonder by chance if you remmeber a black family there during the time you were there that had 7 kids and they lived on the 6floor. there was a army chaplain that taught bible study as well. if this sounds familiar contact me at. venezuelablkgrl@ yahoo.com

    • Ivan Says:

      I lived in the Martinique from 1986-1988.We lived on the 11th floor first then we moved to the 7th floor. We also stayed at the Forbell shelter on three occasions.

      As bad as everything was back then there was some good times. Like going to PAL day camp & Camp Homeward Bound in the summer.

      One summer after camp was over a few of the counselors took some of us out to eat and let us hang out at their loft.

      One of my worst experiences as a child was at the Martinique. My mother was hooked on drugs and she let some Columbian drug dealers sell drugs out of our room.

      Needless to say it was not long before the cops came busting down our door. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was on Oct. 27 1988, it was a Thursday a little after 7:30 (I know the time because I was watching the Cosby show.) The cops busted in with a battering ram, they grabbed one of the guys and threw him on the floor in the hallway and busted his head open. The cops knew there were children in the room because they were watching from the bank across the street.

      • sheronda Says:

        Hey Ivan , My name is shondell I use to live in the Holland hotel. Bt as u no we all traveled back an fourth to hotels. so we all kinda no eachother some how or another. lol… u can find me on facebook sheronda gibson

      • Jashen Says:

        HI Sheronda…glad we talked a couple of weeks ago. The email I sent came back “undeliverable” can you please confirm it for me. Also, I’ll look for you on FB.
        peace,
        jashen

      • Elizabeth W. Says:

        Ivan, my name is Elizabeth and I was one of the counselors for the Pal day camp in the summer of 1988. I would love to know of your experience with the day camps and even if you might have been one of the children in my day camp that summer. would you e-mail me so that we can talk? My e-mail is pinkedlizzie@yahoo.com

  20. Lisa Says:

    I remember that department store near there, right next door, dee and dee or something, it might be named something else, but I remember the area well. We would also walk to a park. Believe it or not, as a teenage etc, it really doesnt affect u living in a hotel like that, if you keep busy. Food was oodles and noodles soup, u can make spaghetti and sauce with a hot plate.

    We did what we had to to eat, even with a hot plate.

  21. Patti Cook Says:

    If anyone is interested what life was life at the Hotel Carter, the Times Square Hotel and the Hotel Longacre (infamous crack house) during 1984, please contact me and I will comment in great detail.

    I am also thankful I made it out alive.

  22. Patti Cook Says:

    If anyone is interested what life was like at the Hotel Carter, the Times Square Hotel and the Hotel Longacre (infamous crack house) during 1984, please contact me and I will comment in great detail.

    I am also thankful I made it out alive.

  23. Kenneth L. Faulkner Says:

    Between 1976 and 1977, my family lived in the “Alexander Hotel” on 103rd street and Broadway. It was also a notorious welfare hotel back then along with “The Regents”. These two hotels have been renovated into luxury hotels for rich people. But they were just like the infamous “Martinique” and many others. It was rat infested; crime infested, and drug infested. A friend of my sisters was brutally raped and killed on the staircase at the “Alexander Hotel”. She was only 14 years old. After that tragic incident, my mother gathered us up and got us out of there. To see this place now, you would never believe what it used to look like.

  24. cynthia Says:

    i am doin some personal research on homeless hotels. when i was about 12 my family was sent to the martinique but my mom refused to stay so we were sent to the normandie hotel on i think it was w45th st can anyone help me find out the addres on where it stood and what happened to it?

  25. cynthia Says:

    i lived inthe normandie from 85-87 it was the worst and best times of my life. the crack epidemic was crazy! we were taught about life in the hardest ways. it still effects me to this day.if anyone lived in this hotel at this time i would like to reconnect and share our stories. the mayor should have paid half of our rent in apartments then to spend millions on these garbage of hotels that gave me horrible dreams .

  26. R'phael Spindel Says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for writing this article. There is very little information on the internet about the notorious Martinique Hotel in the 70’s. I am the son of the manager of the former Martinique, Ralph Accosta. I grew up in Brooklyn, and went to my fathers job there ever since as a little boy. I was given my piano lessons by the lounge pianist, and I had many great memories of the hotel when it was still a good place. As time went on, I noticed how things started to go into decline, I watched it all with my child-like eyes not knowing what was happening until the fencing and safety glass was installed around the large reservation desk. After that, when I would go see my father at the hotel, I started to notice the terrible conditions that were rampant there. Prostitution, drug dealing, crime, filth, dirt and grime and all set in. I unfortunately know that my father was implicated in some ways with the terror that the place had become. I am terribly sorry for anyone whose lives were irrevocably altered because of anything that my father had a hand in. I would like to seek out other people who have stories that I can collect and share, in an effort to get to know this part of my past better from other peoples eyes and perspectives who lived there at the same time.

    • Julian Says:

      Hello-

      I lived at the Martinique Hotel with my family for many years. Yes, there were alot of horrible things happening before my own childhood eyes.

      I do have alot of stories that I can share with you. You can email me at jpuff99@msn.com

      Thanks,
      Julian

    • divayaya Says:

      was your father’s name monk?

      • R'phael Spindel Says:

        My fathers name was “Ralph Accosta” , he was a large imposing man of Afro-Cuban descent, I remember he always wore gold snake bracelets. He was always present in the lobby and bouncing.

    • angel Says:

      horribly rundrown for all the money the owner was paid to operate this place. i have experiences to share. from every staff member that worked there asking the women for all sorts of sexual favors just to keep living(dying) there to women trading sex with the managers just to be able to sell cigs and drugs and food out of their rooms for extra money. filthy filthy place.omg tears come to my eyes each time i think about this place. years later in 1993 i went to work for the board of ed and worked ONLY with children and their familes who were homeless. feel free to contact me. gudservice@yahoo.com

    • Lyn Says:

      Hi, This is for Ralph Accosta. I used to work in the Martinique when the Church of Scientolgy was on the second, and part of the third floor. I am researching the hotel in the 70s. Would you happen to have any old photos of the lobby or the 2nd floor ballroom by chance? There were heavy mirrored doors, which must have been so beautiful in their day. Thanks so much for anything you can find. Lynposner at hotmail.com

  27. Patti Cook Says:

    As I mentioned, I would really like to connect with those who have spent time or lived at these hotels. I’m not familiar with the Normandie, but the Hotel Longacre was located on 45th between 8th and 9th. This place was sheer hell.

    Also does anyone remember the Circle Bar adjacent to the Hotel Carter? That place gave me the creeps.

  28. Herald Square then and now « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] the right is the Martinique Hotel. Once a stately place to rent a room, it would become a disgusting welfare hotel in the 1970s and [...]

  29. j gaither Says:

    WOW I AM 32 YEARS OLD AND I CAN STILL REMEMBER LIVING THERE AS A KID AND THE THINGS THAT WENT ON IT WAS LIKE JAIL IN THERE JUST (UNISEX)

  30. whetstone Says:

    Two of my friends from out of town were mugged outside the Martinique Hotel. That whole area was a no-man’s land, New Yorkers avoided it.

  31. Tee Says:

    I am very disturbed when a former resident of a welfare hotel says it wasn’t that bad…it is undoubtedly a statement made from repression or never learning what a life without dysfunction is. I remember the welfare hotels from when I would visit my grandmother in Brooklyn every summer during the 70’s & 80’s. My summer playmates from the tenements in the neighborhood would sometimes dissapear and I would hear the adults whispering about how the family was evicted and had to go live in a welfare hotel. I had no idea that 20 years later in 2001, that my son & I would have an experience with NYC’s current Department of Homeless Services & a 72 hour stay in the waiting room of the Emergency Assistance Unit in the Bronx. Although the system is not as horrific as the old “welfare hotels”, much more needs to be done.

    • angel Says:

      i worked at bronx eau for a period of time. i spent 18 years working with homeless families and their children. my experience as a former homeless person was committed to service every client that came to my window with dignity and respect. i understood homelessness 1st hand. i know what people who dont have the experience feel about homeless folks. they want the homeless to feel ashamed. its hurtful….

      • Tee Says:

        I wrote the above comment and I would like to say that I did have contact with one dedicated and caring human service worker such as you are when I was at the EAU. His name was Mr. Washington. He treated every client that came to his window with respect. I saw him once on a beach in Brooklyn a few later and he actually recognized me even though we only had very brief contact during my stay at the emergency unit.

  32. The exuberant entrance of a 32nd Street hotel « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] moved northward, leaving the Aberdeen and other former luxe hotels, such as the Wolcott and the Martinique, [...]

  33. Flaco Says:

    I remember having to live here when I was around 5 or 6 yrs old because me my brother sister and mom were homeless. My mom was an immigrant and not able to work because of mental health issues. We had to live in this piece of sh*t place and it was worst then this article describes. I was there trust me

  34. Phillip O'Brien Says:

    I also remember when I lived in the hotel and witnessing that little girl getting raped. I lived on thr 10th floor and remember looking out the hallway window. I was able to into other apartments below the 10th floor and seeing this grown male forcing this little girl to perform oral sex on him. I ran to my mother and let her know. She then went to security.
    Also speaking of security. I used to have a great relationship with this security guard. He was the nicest man. Because my last name is O’Brien, he always used to call me OB when passing. I was very upset to learn he got shot and killed for assisting in calming down a domestic violence issue on the 11th floor. He manage to make it down to my room 1011 and passed away a few feet away. That really disappointed me. I still think about him today.
    I do wish I could find out the mail lady’s Linda’s last name. I would love to reach out to her. She took care of my Brothers and I around Christmas time by taking us to her house in New Jersey and having so many Christmas presents for us to open. It would be such an honor to thank her in person with all my heart.
    The only one I really keep in touch with is one of the Social Workers named Mr. Register. He was a blessing while I lived in the hotel. Mr. Register and I have a Father/Son relationship. It is truly amazing how we both bonded. He helped me get through college. He inspired me to become a Social Worker myself. For 12 years I myself have been working for HRA with HIV/AIDS Admin Services.

    • Tee Says:

      God bless you. I am a formerly homeless single mother, but not from the same era. I lived in four shelters during a five month period right after 9/11. As I have said in previous comments my experience was in no way as horrible as the welfare hotels, but sexual advances and inappropriate comments from DHS employees were persistent however subtle they were. It was sad that some women were not resistant to the propositions. I witness dysfunctional cycles of poverty and neglect. The system still works the same way, except the city pays non profit organizations to administer the services. The organizations are for the most part safer than the old system, but still thousands of dollars a month are paid to house families in one room until permanent housing is secured.

  35. Phillip O'Brien Says:

    I rember that seurity guard all to well. He used to call me OB. He made it down to my apartment 1011 after being shot on the 11th floor due t domestic violence issue. How sad.

  36. Amanda Says:

    I lived in the Martinique when it was a welfare hotel, back in 1986-87. My family was on the front page of the Daily News…we suffered greatly there, but let us not forget that there were a few moments of happiness as well. I remember singing on Broadway with the Coalition for the homeless with Peter, Paul and Mary. Going to Washington DC to tell our stories about poverty. My mother was a single mom to 5 children…never drank…never did drugs…just poor. I hate what I went through and have been fighting to overcome since. Now 37, married 18 years and have 4 wonderful children. But that mind set of being a nobody and not deserving anything in life still lingers in my thoughts and down to my soul. Im just now starting to make a better life for my family though we struggle hard. I wish none of us ever had to live through that…I wish everyone that live through the hell a better life…its never to late!

  37. jashen edwards Says:

    I recently found this forum and am thankful it exists. I first learned of this shelter hotel when reading Jonothan Kozol’s book, Rachel and Her Children. I am currently a music student at UC Berkeley and am writing a musical drama about some of the causes and casualties of poverty and homelessness with a special interest in the Martinique and the Road to Potter’s Field.

    Does anyone have any old photographs of the hotel inside or outside they’d be willing to share?

    Of course, I would give photo credits.

    you can also call me at 510.847.1303

    peace,
    jashen

  38. Barry Says:

    My name is Barry. i work for the dept of the army. ex police officer. Former lt.Det. and interim police chief and i proudly say my family spent time there as my mother struggled to hold her family together . they were good times for me there and i learned alot about hard work . i think the name welfare hotel is a disgrace to the true intention of that program.

  39. Jashen Says:

    http://www.opednews.com/articles/Homelessness-Death-and-Tr-by-Ruth-Hull-120430-958.html

  40. James Grifffin Says:

    My wife & I lived there for 9 months ($75 per month) 1949-50 while I went to Renaurd’s School of Embalming & she worked for an insurance co. The room had a sink with runing water & the bath down the hall. We could look out our 4th floor window & see Herald Square. At that time it had seen its best days but still was a safe place to live

  41. sheronda Says:

    HI My name is sheronda gibson aka shondell. I lived in the holland hotel. I love this website im going to share this with everyone i no from the martinique , holland, carter and prince george. we all have a life experince that we shared. this is huge only if you guys knew. we can start something here…

  42. The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] Sak’s 34th Street (9) are ghosts. The Hotel New Yorker (6) keeps packing them in, while the Hotel Martinique (3) endured a tortured history as a 1980s welfare hotel before reopening as a [...]

  43. Kathy R. Says:

    I too was part of the shelter system back in 1986.I was about 13 years old and I remember one big family that lived there, there were about 10 of them I can only remember one of the son’s name, his name was Carlos, i remember him wearing a durag on his head, I had never seen that so I was amused. I wish I could find them) My mom, bro’s and sis and i had to first go to Forbell street shelter in Brooklyn. We stayed there for 2 months and every day when we came home my mom checked “the list” if your family’s name was on it with an H next to it that meant that you were being placed in a Hotel..We had heard the Horror stories of the Martinique and Prince George, Brooklyn Arms Hotels and were always so scared that we would be sent to one of those places. So one day after 2 months we got back from being at the nearby park and we finally had an “H” next to our name..I remember my mom going into the office to see where we were going. We were happy when they said The Colonial Hotel in Jamaica Queen, that’s where we were originally from. We packed up our bags of clothes and had to get on a van with a few other family’s. Some were going to the Martinique, I felt bad for them. we were dropped off last. We were so happy to have 2 rooms to ourselves. Privacy and we could cook on hotplates. After that there is so much more to my story and how we lived there for over 2 years and the things that went on there. I think back on that now and I say I too can write a book about my life growing up in shelters and welfare hotels. I tell my children all the time how lucky they are to have not had to have gone through the things I had to as a young adolescent. I am grateful that i grew up to be a strong woman and I overcame all the obstacles that were put on our family.

  44. Chris Says:

    I was a security guard at the Martinique hotel for 8 months in 1988. I was a 19 year old kid and had no clue what i was getting into. I saw a lot of bad things there i don’t want to remember. I do remember my manager was a nice guy. His name was Leroy!

  45. Robert Todd Says:

    F.I.T.had a shortage of dorm space and many students were housed at Hotel Martinique. I lived there from 1970 to 1972. I was a sheltered kid from a Texas farm and had never spent the night in a city before. I was so frightened by the constant sounds of jack hammers and sirens, that I didn’t leave my room for the first 3 days. Eventually I met other students and we bonded, learned to cook in popcorn poppers, toaster ovens, and used milk crates suspended from the windows facing the air shaft to refrigerate perishables. There was a Church of Scientoligy recruiting newcomers on the 2nd floor. There were many single women, some with heavy makeup that seemed to always be around. Eventually I realized they were prostitutes. They were always nice to me. On more than one occasion there was a fire and everyone had to run down the large marble staircases. Living there was a real eye opener, to say the least.

  46. j. akbar Says:

    Im writing a book based on my experience as a kid in the martinique, Bryant, holland , and prince George I went there a innocent child and became someone else. Watched my friends die went to jail as a kid not a good experience. Any one who lived in these hotels from 85-87 we can share stories I was 13 I sprent a lot of time in the Bryant and Holland hotel my moms lived in the martinique and my aunt lived in the Bryant. Contact me.

    • Lyn Ribisi Says:

      Hi, Do you have any old photos of the Martinque Hotel? Thanks so much. I’m doing a book as well, and I’m having a very hard time finding any pictures. Lyn

      • jabar Says:

        Yes If you have pics we can swap I had these pics since 1986 and they or priceless to me based on the history and experience im 40 and were kids with no guidance in the pics. We can exchange emails

      • Lyn Ribisi Says:

        Jabar. This is so exciting! Can you scan your photos or take a pretty decent picture of them and email them to me? Otherwise, I scan photos for people all the time, and you can send me yours and I will scan and send back within 5 days, along with a disc for you of them digitized.

        I know how precious these photos are!! And I will act accordingly I have done this dozens of times for friends, family and strangers and it has been 100% great!

        Email me and we can figure it out. Lynposner at hotmail.com.

        Great and thanks so much!

        Lyn

      • Kat Says:

        i didn’t live in any of those hotels, but did live in one in Jamaica, Queens.. I wanted to write a book as well from my time there as well as in the shelter on Forbell street in Brooklyn. i don’t have any photos of the place, we were that poor that we didn’t own a camera. :( i remember the name Martinique and prince George being thrown around when I was at the shelter with my mom and Brothers and sister and prayed we wouldn’t be placed there. The place we were placed in wasn’t that much better I’m sure.. Hope everyone has overcome all they’ve been through and glad we can share stories.

    • Mt.Vernon Says:

      I visited the Prince George a couple of times. That place was much worst than the Martinique Hotel

      • Mt.Vernon Says:

        I lived upstate New York. My sister and I use to hang out with some friends for the Martinique, across the street in the park. I knew so many people there. Linda and Randy, Nene and Tanika, Jesus, Candy. So so so many people. The life I’m living no, one would every thought the Martinique is a piece of my pass. You had to be very strong to survive that jungle. 1986-1987.

  47. vahv Says:

    I lived in that hotel for a few months as a child. While I was far too young to remember this place accurately, my siblings have told me of the horror stories of us living there for those months–and I certainly do remember the rodents running around our floor at night. It was a horrible point in our lives.

  48. Danny Says:

    By chance I came across this site and it reminds me how I as a Indo-European teenager of 18 years old worked in a summer camp in upstate New York, for Camp Counsellors USA. It was the summer of 1988 and I was a dance teacher. The camp exclusively housed children from New York’s welfare hotels: such as the Martinique (the other names I can’t remember). It was my first encounter with the USA and it became a life experience that I would wear throughout the rest of my life with me.

    In my imagination, America was the land of limitless wealth. My dream was shattered when the first group of children arrived in the camp. Like a cage was opened, the children jumped off the bus. In worn clothes, full of dirty spots and an indescribable stench, which I could not identify. They did not listen to me. They cursed in every sentence and sometimes spoke a slang so distanced from the English languange, that I could not understand them. The first day I found it very hard to handle these children. It was a terrible culture shock.

    By the statements and stories of the children it became more clear to me, what the terrible daily reality in welfare hotels was. Some children had seen people being shot, knifed, raped, killed. Other children bore visible scars of abuse. Also the behaviour of the children showed, that they had more knowledge of some things, then would be good for their ages. It was striking to witness how these children, under the influence of structure, regularity, personal attention and space to play in a short period of two weeks all could change into ‘normal’ children. It was for each group of children heart breaking to have to bring them back to the hotels. The children, who initially gave the counsellors the most trouble, were crying the loudest when we dispensed them to their mothers.

    If there was one thing that I could learn from some of the children, it was dancing and rapping. I remember a boy, Daniel from the Martinique Hotel, who danced so well, that I pressured the camp director to get him on a dance school or in some sort of dance program. I do not know if it worked. I hope so. I remember well how the children loved to do fashion shows and musicals. They were talented and eager to learn.

    Two weeks after the last group, some camp counsellors and I visited the Martinique. We were reluctant to stay at the hotel. It was a creepy place. Instead, we took a group of children with us and treated them to donuts somewhere underground. After that I went on a tour across the USA and I haven’t seen any of the children ever since.

    Later I visited the U.S. and New York several times and also tasted the glamor side, but that first experience with the cruel side of the U.S. I will never forget. I wish all parents and children who have lived in welfare hotels all well.

    • Elizabeth W. Says:

      I have just written an essay for one of my college classes about the summer I spent working with the children from the Martinique. If you would like to read it I would love to share it with you, I think you would be able to relate well to my experience as it sounds much like yours.

  49. Marilyn, Arthur and ‘The Crucible’ | ES Updates Says:

    […] his way to the dentist one day, he passed the old Martinique Hotel, at Broadway and 32nd […]

  50. Dawn Powell-Arroyo Says:

    i lived there for about 2 years with my family, including 4 younger sisters. what a horriblle place.I was in the 6th grade i am now 40 yrs old. Many of nights we would have to be woken up from our sleep to run down 16 stories because some one set the place on fire,again. Yes, i was on the top floor in room 1614. We would visit my grandfather in queens and come home to find the kids on that floor ransacking our place just to eat our food. We had no refridgerator so we hung a milk crate out the window and put the food in it. Everyday was a fight to go to school on the bus. My sisters would be in fist fights daily. Me , being the oldest girl I just took two subways to and from school to avoid it all. I myself learned very quickly how to fight , literally fight for everything. We were also part of that homeless summer camp thing. Camp homeward bound………We spent plenty of days using the trash room as a jungle gym………God, the memories.

    • Amanda Says:

      Dawn, I lived there at the same time as you and we are about the same age I’m 39. I lived on the 12th floor 1217-19 to be exact. I remember the hell we went through and all the fires…running down the spiral staircase for our lives…playing in the halls just to get out of the tiny room :-( All the people on drugs and things like that…I’m glad you are doing well and made it out of there…Oh the memories!

  51. Barry Says:

    I could understand what a horror beyond words it must have been. I worked on the East Side and I remember one time having to work late (about 2 AM) and the shock of seeing at that hour children as young as 2 or 3 wandering around outside on 33rd Street, easily vulnerable….

  52. Warnagui Says:

    I lived in the Martinque for a couple of years with my mother and baby sister. I lived on the 10th Floor. Rm 1030. I will never forget my experiences. Some Good Some Bad. It was an end to being on the street with my mother and sister. I luckily was able to live with my father in queen, but left my mother and sister behind. I used to go back to and visit them. unfortunately my mother got sick and had to be hospitalized and sister moved to puerto rico,, but from all the stories i hear. i can only imagine what happened to my baby sister. She is still dealing with the experiences that she had to endure at the martinque. I remember a friend named Eric and his brother. we used to go to peen station and break dance for money which taught my self reliance and gave me an outlet to all the things we as children had to endure while we lived in this rat infested,dump. this is the first time I have read about others experiences of the Martinque. It is an honor to hear your stories.

  53. carol Says:

    I lived in martinique between 83-84 with my 5 sisters and father we had our ups and down but it wasing that bad we kinder had fun there cause we went to center everyday the bus pick us up the workers there help us a lot till we were tranfer to prince george hotel for 7 month till we found a place to live we made a lot of friend within those 2 half years but i dont want to go though that again

  54. Elizabeth W. Says:

    I was one of the day camp workers for Child Evangelism Fellowship of NYC in the summer of 1988, right before they closed the hotel. We took a group of about 20 children from the Martinique hotel every weekday that summer to a local church and had a day camp full of activities songs aid in reading and two healthy meals a day. I just wrote an English paper for my college class about my experience that summer and the one child who I remember more than any other. Her name was Nekkia. It was a summer that changed my life forever. I wished I could have done something about that whole problem, something to make those people’s lives better but I was only 18 and I was only one person. To all of you who lived there, please know that I have prayed for you often. My life was never the same after that summer and I have a great amount of respect for anyone who had to live in that hell of a place. You are truly the strongest of the strong!! Blessings to you all!!

    • Elizabeth W. Says:

      I was looking at the other posts and remembered that the day camp that we has was called the PAL camp. If anyone went to that day camp in the summer of 1988 I would love to know who you are.

  55. chiquita82872 Says:

    I too had my first experience of hell and shock when my mom and siblings entered the Martinique in 1985. I was 12 then. I remembered my mom crying hysterically when she saw the room. All I remember is that she made a big fuss and we got transferred to the normandie hotel. I have a lot to say about what went down in that hotel. It’s nothing good. I wish I could write a book. That experience was the worst for me and my brothers. We are still struggling with the memories til this day. My life consists of two parts before homelessness and after.

  56. Peter Rukavina Says:

    Here’s an ad for the Hotel Martinique that ran in the Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) Guardian on February 10, 1914:

  57. peggy Says:

    hI MY NAME IS PEGGY I LIVE IN THE HOTEL MARTINIQUE WITH MY 4 CHILDREN. I LIVED ON THE 11 FLOOR I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I SAW A BIG RAT IN MY ROOM . I WENT DOWN STAIRS BECAUSE I WAS SCARED . WHEN A VAN FROM A SHELTER WAS LEAVING MORE FAMILY THERE . I ASKED THEM IF I COULD GO BACK TO THE SHELTER. THEY SAID YES . ONLY TO FIND MYSELF BACK THERE 1 YEAR LATER. THIS TIME ON THE 14 FLOOR I REMEMBER THE FIRE ON THE 16 ,15 FLOOR .

  58. HIV/AIDS, Politics and Africa | HIV/AIDS in Global Context (PH770 - CUNY SPH) Says:

    […] in the HIV and AIDS field started while she was working with homeless groups in New York City in a “welfare hotel” called The Martinique, where she was able to see how HIV was affecting other communities before gay men for a longer […]

  59. peggy Says:

    it was bad there but the hotel carter was far more worse

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I’ve heard. Were you at the Hotel Carter? What was it like?

      • PEGGY Says:

        i LIVE IN THE HOTEL CARTER 1984 . I LIVED WITH MY 3 CHILDREN . I LIVED IN ROOM 410 . I DID NOT NO MUCH ABOUT THIS PLACE BEFORE I WAS HOMELESS IN THE DAY I WOULD GO OUT WHEN I CAME BACK MY WINDOW WAS OPEN I THOUGHT IT WAS THE MAID WHO OPEN IT I DIDNT KNOW THEY HAD NO MAIDS FORE THE HOMELESS. . ONE DAY AFTER COMEING BACK TO MY ROOM MY DOOR WAS OPEN I WALKED IN I SAW A MAN WITH MY BED SHEETS TIED ON THE WINDOW HE TOLD ME TO BE QUIET AND DONT LOOK HE HAD CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW . HOLDING ON THE SHEET . I TOOK MR TRON TO COURT FOR A FAR HEARING SO HE COULD CHANGE MY ROOM . BUT HE WOULD NOT CHANGE IT HE CLAMED HE HAD NO MORE ROOMS . SO I WENT BACK TO A SHELTER . ONLY TO FINE MYSELF IN THE MARTINIQUE.

      • PEGGY Says:

        i LIVE IN THE HOTEL CARTER 1984 . I LIVED WITH MY 3 CHILDREN . I LIVED IN ROOM 410 . I DID NOT NO MUCH ABOUT THIS PLACE BEFORE I WAS HOMELESS IN THE DAY I WOULD GO OUT WHEN I CAME BACK MY WINDOW WAS OPEN I THOUGHT IT WAS THE MAID WHO OPEN IT I DIDNT KNOW THEY HAD NO MAIDS FORE THE HOMELESS. . ONE DAY AFTER COMEING BACK TO MY ROOM MY DOOR WAS OPEN I WALKED IN I SAW A MAN WITH MY BED SHEETS TIED ON THE WINDOW HE TOLD ME TO BE QUIET AND DONT LOOK HE HAD CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW . HOLDING ON THE SHEET . I TOOK MR TRON TO COURT FOR A FAiR HEARING SO HE COULD CHANGE MY ROOM . BUT HE WOULD NOT CHANGE IT HE CLAMED HE HAD NO MORE ROOMS . SO I WENT BACK TO A SHELTER . ONLY TO FINE MYSELF IN THE MARTINIQUE.

  60. Shala Says:

    I also lived in the Martinique hotel around 1985-1987. I remember the hotel being the worst experience ever. it was hell so much crimes and hunger. I remember the security guard that got shot on the 11 floor. I remember when I was living on the 11 floor there was some teenager breaking into a apartment using a axe to break there door down and came out with they food. It was poor robbing poor it was ridiculous. this type of experience made some ppl strong and some ppl weak. But not everyone survive. the only cool memories I could say I had was when I using to take mattress to slide down the stairs with my brother. I also remember my sister cleaning car window to make some money to feed me and my younger sibling. but I thank god that all this pain made me the person I am today.

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