Central NY hotel management sent long-term residents scrambling to make rooms for migrant contracts

Salina, NY — Mike Brown and Nikki Henry were amazed May 18 by a knock on their door at the Candlewood Suites hotel.

It was management with a message: The couple had a little over a week to clear out of the hotel room they’d been living in for months while they worked overnights at Amazon.

The company that owns the hotel made a deal to house migrants from New York City, according to lawsuits. Residents said the hotel management was clearing them out to make rooms for new ones.

Hotel management went through most of the building that day, guests said, knocking on doors of people who had called the home for months, and even years. Residents interviewed by Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard said they were paying rates that ranged from $700 a month to $2,100 a month to stay in one- and two-room suites with kitchenettes.

Some have children, many have pets. In all, the hotel management rented 79 rooms to people who were there for more than a month. Then the hotel gave people less than a week to figure out where to go. A nurse who had been living there for two years said the hotel corporate management gave her a few days to pack up her life and get out.

Asaf Fligelman, a developer with the company that owns the Candlewood Suites, has declined repeated requests for comments about what his company is doing with the hotel.

It’s unclear how much the company will make off the deal to house at least one busload of asylum seekers from New York City. New York City will pay the hotel bill.

Fligelman is with Churchwick Partners, a New York City real estate investment firm. Churchwick and Rockledge, another investment firm, bought the Salina hotel in May 2022 along with eight other extended-stay hotels in six states.

Many of the residents said they were not told by the regular hotel staff they’d been dealing with for months, but by other corporate staff who had been onsite for about a month.

Two days after the hotel management told residents they had to leave, the Salina town supervisor got a call informing him that New York City was planning to transfer a busload of migrants from the city to the Candlewood Suites. The call came from Chris Ellis, who works for New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Hotel residents said they asked management why they had to leave but were not given any clear answers. A few said the corporate hotel management offered them help to get out, but most said they were on their own to find a new place. Several said they are facing homelessness.

It’s possible the hotel is violating the law by forcing long-term residents out. A hotel guest who stays 30 days or more is considered a tenant, and must be evicted through the courts just as if they were a tenant in an apartment, said Susan Griffith, managing attorney for Legal Services of Central New York.

For more than a year, the hotel management has been marketing the Salina property to people who need a place to stay, but are having trouble finding an apartment. it worked. Before residents were told to leave, 79 of the 123 rooms were rented to people who had been there a month or more.

Eddie Lenton is paying $1,200 a month for a room with two double beds and a kitchenette. He and his partner have been there since December. Lenton said he was lured in with an offer for $800 a month, but then the hotel raised the rate without telling him.

Lenton said he and his partner are supposed to be out today, but they have nowhere else to go.

“I told them I was paid through the end of the month,” Lenton said. He said they offered him his money back, but told him he had to go.

Nicole Sinda said she was paying $1,200 a month for a one-bedroom suite where she has been living with her partner, her three children, her two dogs and three cats.

“We will be homeless,” Sinda said.

Hotel management gave most residents no reason why they were being moved out. A worker there said they, too, have been kept in the dark about the specific plans.

Onondaga County and the town of Salina have both filed court motions to stop the hotel management from taking migrants. In its court papers, the county raised additional concerns that the hotel company was leaving its current residents homeless.

“It would be inequitable to allow the Candlewood to evict current residents to make room for those being transported to Onondaga County by New York City,” the lawsuit reads.

Those who have a place to go have left. Some are digging in, hiding out in their rooms so they can’t get locked out when they leave.

Hotel staff said they have been told to stop reissuing keys for any current guests. The hotel is no longer accepting reservations until late October.

A few residents said the hotel management has offered to help them find new places, but most said they have not been offered any help.

Tension is rising at the hotel. There are now two security guards stationed in the lobby.

The town of Salina has a code enforcement officer posted there day and night, waiting for the bus. Hotel management threatened a reporter and photographer from Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard with arrest. Someone clipped a cardboard sign to a telephone pole near the hotel: “Future home of illegals. Lock your doors and hide your daughters.”

Reporter Mark Weiner contributed to this report.

Marnie Eisenstadt writes about people and public affairs in Central New York. Contact her anytime e-mail | Twitter| Facebook | 315-470-2246.

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