N.Y. Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge celebrates 20 years as Kings County’s premier hotel

Former Borough President Marty Markowitz brings Verge to landmark celebration

October 1, 2018 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Marriott Brooklyn Bridge general manager Sam Ibrahim in the Great Room Bar and Lounge. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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Entering the lobby of the Marriott New York at Brooklyn Bridge on Wednesday, Sept. 26, one could be forgiven for failing to realize that the day marked a special anniversary for Kings County’s largest hotel.

Just outside, doormen hailed cabs while helping transport luggage, guests checked in and out at the front desk and the Marriott’s Grand Ballroom hummed with activity as guests checked for the day’s symposium.

Over by the Great Room Bar and Lounge, however, there was more activity as the hotel’s general manager Sam Ibrahim joined public relations director Kathleen Duffy in putting the final touches to 46 gift bags. The bags were meant for the nearly 50 “charter members,” Marriott employees who have been with the hotel since it first opened exactly 20 years ago.

“The Marriott, along with MetroTech,” Duffy said, “was the first major construction in the revitalization of Downtown Brooklyn.”

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“We were the first new hotel to be built in Brooklyn in more than 60 years,” Ibrahim added.

Indeed, the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge on 333 Adams St. remains one of NYC’s largest hotels overall, with a declared capacity of 667 rooms.

“The number is actually one less,” Duffy admitted. “But we didn’t want to use the actual number because of negative connotations.”

“Does the Marriott, then, have a 13th floor?” this reporter asked.

“Oh, yes,” Ibrahim said with a smile. “We call it the ‘14th.’”

The morning’s guest of honor, former Borough President Marty Markowitz, arrived with typical flourish. The time had come to honor the Marriott’s charter members.

“The Grand Ballroom,” said Markowitz, “with its seating of 1,500, finally relieved Brooklyn politicians of the embarrassment of staging large meetings and fundraisers in Manhattan.”

Markowitz himself has a personal history with the Marriott. “My honeymoon,” he explained during a pause in passing out gift bags. “Not the whole thing, of course, but we stayed here the first night after we were married in 1999.”

When asked if he credited the Marriott with the success of his marriage, Markowitz paused. “No,” he laughed. “I can’t embellish that much.”

Housekeeper Elsa Billingly recalled the night Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson stayed at the hotel, only to be taunted by overzealous autograph hounds, which led NYPD to make several arrests, including Tyson, who was ultimately not charged in the incident.

“Oh, they provoked him,” Billingly said.

Later that day, Marriott staff set up a special treat in the hotel’s M Club Lounge, offering chef DeSantis’s hors d’oeuvres and canapes for VIP guests, along with all of the beer and wine anyone cared to imbibe.

“You know,” said Ibrahim, “when they first offered me this position 18 years ago, I said to myself, ‘Brooklyn?! What did I do to deserve that? Am I being punished?’ But now there’s no place I’d rather be.”

In a video done to commemorate Brooklyn Heights Press 75th year, Ibrahim elaborated: “Brooklyn means history … You can visit 58 nations in Brooklyn, without ever leaving … We used to rely on business from Manhattan, but not anymore. Now our business comes from Brooklyn. And it’s truly international … I couldn’t have picked a better place than Brooklyn.”

Leaving behind a permanent memento of the anniversary, artist Cram Concepts, worked to complete the names of Brooklyn neighborhoods in graffiti-style within his already completed mural depicting a view of the Brooklyn Bridge itself and Manhattan as seen from the roof of the Marriott.

“Remember the Beastie Boys’ ‘Hello, Brooklyn!’ video?” Cram said. “That’s what inspired this particular design.”

Another of Cram’s murals, set on a nearby wall, already contains thousands of scrawled messages, autographs and comments. A group of Lufthansa flight attendants paused for pictures with it in the background. Before they gathered their suitcases and headed for the elevators, they uncapped their own pens to leave a small bit of themselves behind in Gotham’s largest borough.

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