Through recent press clips I received an article from the Windy City Times ( Aug. 20, 2003 ) , entitled 'OutQ Gay Radio News Team Broadcasts Throughout Blackout,' which contains some factual errors with reference to the New York Marriott Marquis.
For the record, room access was not impossible 'because new electronic key cards require electricity to work,' as stated in the article. Key cards worked just fine; they operate on a battery system. In fact, we sent our employees to guest rooms throughout the evening to retrieve medication, as needed.
Our decision to evacuate the hotel was based on the malfunction of the hotel's generator, which meant in the absence of electricity, the fire safety backup system was not in place. This posed a threat to our guests' safety, if they had remained in their guest rooms. The New York Marriott Marquis' main lobby is located on the 8th floor; to insure safety, all guests were evacuated to the lower floors of the hotel, on the 3rd floor and the street level lobby entrance, with additional guests outside in the porte cochere drive-through area at the main entrance.
The hotel provided bottled water, snacks, sheets and pillows to as many individuals as possible. We allowed guests to use the banquet restrooms on the lower floors.
While we recognize that this was an extremely uncomfortable situation for our guests, their safety and security are our highest priority.
I was personally at the hotel throughout the entire evening. At no point did I speak with your reporter, 'Gay Boy Ric,' for clarification on any of the abovementioned information. We would appreciate it if your publication would print a correction to these reported facts.
Kathleen Duffy, Director of Public Relations, New York City Marriott Hotels
Gay Boy Ric replies:
My report was purposefully not based on any conversations with hotel employees or press representatives, but on the comments of guests sleeping on the sidewalk ( and, yes, driveway ) outside the Marriott Marquis and Renaissance Hotels, as aired in live reports from a news team at Sirius Satellite Radio's OutQ.
In addition, on Aug. 15, The New York Daily News reported: 'Hundreds of tourists who had been locked out of their rooms at the Marriott Marquis in Times Squarethe hotel did not have a generator to power its electronic room locks.' On Aug. 16, Larry McShane of The Associated Press reported: 'The loss of power left many commuters and visitors sleeping on the sidewalks or wandering aimlessly all night even the hundreds who had reservations at the Marriott Marquis. The would-be guests' electronic room keys didn't work because the hotel lacked a generator.' On Aug. 16, The New York Post reported: ''It's been really hard. Kids are crying, there's no food, and no bathroom,' said Kerry Sobol, 30, a Marquis guest who slept outside on newspapers.' On Aug. 15, The Seattle Times reported: 'At the Marriott Marquis ... hundreds of hotel guests camped out, in and around the building, where the rooms' high-tech key cards couldn't be charged.' On Aug. 15, Amy C. Sims of The Fox News Channel reported: 'At the Marriott Marquis in New York City, hundreds of tourists who thought they had a bed for the night were forced to sleep on the sidewalks, because the hotel did not have a generator to power the electronic room keys.' On Aug. 16, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported: '... Marriott Marquis ... electronic key cards didn't work because there was no emergency generator for the 37-story building in the heart of Times Square.'
In addition, several times, the OutQ team mis-reported the issue of key cards not working on the air. Evidently, many reporters and guests misunderstood the key cards as a major part of the problem, and I apologize for mistakenly reprinting OutQ's report that the key card issue was at the heart of Marriott's difficulties.
My report did acknowledge that blankets and sheets had been provided by the hotel, and that a guest on the sidewalk had said, with irony, 'They have been good about water.' My main point, however, was that, in sending guests out to sleep on the sidewalk, Marriott pleads concern for the safety of their guests. Marriott oddly considered the New York City sidewalk a safe alternative.
Consumers have a right to expect better preparation and contingency plans in the event of any of a number of crises, including a generator breakdown and city-wide blackout.
On another subject, as a public relations executive, I am sure you understand that a byline represents the professional name of the reporter. Therefore, in your letter, there was no need to place quotation marks around the name Gay Boy Ric, as if to infer some lesser credibility.
Sincerely, Gay Boy Ric