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.