Sunday, March 1, 2009

Allegria Hotel Holds Job Fair

By Joseph Kellard

Although the job fair was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., some prospective employees demonstrated their punctuality by lining up on the sixth floor of Long Beach City Hall an hour early on Tuesday.

The Allegria, the luxury hotel that is replacing the King David Manor on the boardwalk at National Boulevard, held a two-day job fair Tuesday and Wednesday, looking to fill 100 start-up positions, from dishwashers to concierges to accountants.

Just after 9 there were already some 70 job-seekers seated on benches or standing on line, filling out applications or waiting to be interviewed, some dressed in business suits and pearl necklaces, others in jeans and wool hats.

“They hit me a little sooner than I was ready for this morning,” said Mark Lahood, president of Access Hotels and Resorts, who was hired to oversee the pre-opening process for the Allegria. Lahood expected some 2,000 applicants in two 12-hour days.

Among Tuesdays early birds was John Gyulay of Valley Stream, who had been laid off a week earlier from a health care company in Manhattan, which he said was downsizing due to the faltering economy. “A lot of people are not working, so whatever job they can get, they’ll take,” said Gyulay, who was looking for a maintenance or security job at the hotel.

In line behind Gyulay was Andre Morris of Long Beach, who hoped to get a full- or part-time custodial job. “Right now I’m doing construction, but it’s seasonal and there’s not always work,” Morris said.

The Allegria promoted the job fair with fliers and posters, and advertised in local papers, including the Herald. “We’re really trying to embrace the Long Beach community,” Lahood said.

Long Beach resident Margaret Famigoietti said she learned about the hirings from her children. She lost her job of 12 years at a Brooklyn nursing home in October 2008, in economy-driven layoffs.

“We all have bills to pay,” said Famigoietti, who is collecting unemployment. “It’s getting tough. My savings is going way down.”

A certified nursing assistant, she said she enjoys working with people and wanted to land a job at the hotel’s front desk or in reservations. “They told me they’d call me for an interview,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s a great sign or not.”

The hotel is focusing on finding service-oriented, personable people, Lahood said. “In a hotel environment, we hire a lot based on personality,” he explained. “It’s the one thing we can’t train for.”

Lahood pointed out that people can expect the hotel to add as many as 60 more positions once it is in full seasonal swing this summer.

“Just because someone doesn’t make it this first round doesn’t mean there aren’t future opportunities,” he added.

The hotel expects to have a staff hired by early April, and to open its doors sometime later that month or in May, Lahood estimated.

Danielle Bivens, a Long Beach resident who works in the cafeteria at East Elementary School, said she would take any part-time position.

“I need something for the evenings and when school is over, something for the summer,” Bivens said.

While waiting to be interviewed on Tuesday, Gabrielle Rios of Valley Stream said she has spent the past two years earning an associate’s degree in hospitality from New York City College of Technology. Now, she said, she is eager to work at the hotel, whether in the kitchen or at the front desk. “Whatever position is available now, I’ll take it,” Rios said.

The hotel’s developer, Allen Rosenberg, president of the Manhattan-based Alrose Group, showed up at the job fair on Tuesday morning. Rosenberg bought the King David Manor property for $21 million in August 2007. He was unsuccessful in his bid to buy the Garden City Hotel last year, but opened a Wild By Nature supermarket and a Walgreens on his property on Long Beach Road in Oceanside.

The Allegria is touted as a high-end luxury hotel that will feature 143 rooms -- 31 of them suites -- as well as a rooftop pool, a spa run by the Long Beach salon Joseph Christopher, and meeting rooms for corporate and catered events. It will be the first luxury hotel in Long Beach since the mid-20th century.

“Creating a forum that provides job opportunities will help foster optimism in a gloomy economy,” Rosenberg said, “and will give gifted individuals a chance to grow with a hotel that is the first of its kind in the neighborhood.”

Asked why the Allegria was holding its job fair at City Hall, Lahood said that in addition to the fact that the hotel itself is still a construction zone still, there was no better place in Long Beach.

“We are going to be a long-term fixture in this community,” he said, “so we need to start off in a way that’s going to meld the two together.”

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