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Nov 14, 2012 9:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hotels, Motels and Inns Become Shelters For The Displaced And Working

Nov 14, 2012 10:42 AM

As Superstorm Sandy whipped through Long Island, piggy-backed by a strong nor’easter, some East End residents were fortunate enough to be able to check in at local hotels and inns, where they took comfort in electricity, running water and shelter from the elements.

Although the patrons were lucky to escape dark, cold nights, some of them were evacuees who dealt with flooding, damage and even total destruction of their homes. Others, who remain at many Southampton hotels, are workmen and insurance adjusters here on an indefinite visit. And while the two storms walloped the area, the need for shelter has helped inns, motels and hotels during the beginning of their off-season.

“We’ve been pretty close to full occupancy,” said Southampton Inn Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner Dede Gotthelf, noting that business has been good despite the sympathy she feels for the displaced. “Some who have been at the inn have lost their homes. Some came in initially for four days but then heard about the nor’easter and checked back in, and crews have been calling in from all over.”

The inn, which is located on Hill Street, acted as a safe haven for many Southampton residents from the very first day when flooding and power outages began on Monday, October 29. “There aren’t many options, and Dede is someone we know and like. It was the most logical place,” said Betty Schlein of Southampton Village.

“There’s a reason why they call it Hill Street—it’s on high ground,” said Ms. Schlein’s partner, Fred Weinberg.

The couple lives in a house that overlooks Shinnecock Bay, south of Montauk Highway by the Stony Brook Southampton college campus. Although their house didn’t sustain any damage, their neighborhood was flooded out and lost power for a few days.

On Monday, October 29, just before high tide rushed in, the couple checked in at the Southampton Inn. “Our neighbors were flooded out,” Ms. Schlein said. “They all ended up at the inn the next day.”

Thinking they had escaped the wicked weather, Mr. Weinberg and Ms. Schlein checked out, but then checked back in to the hotel days later when the nor’easter showed its ugly face.

“We left before high tide,” Mr. Weinberg said. “We didn’t want to take a chance on the wind. It was terrific to be able to go back to the inn. They were very sweet and understanding.”

While the off-season rate in October to November is usually between $179 to $199 a night, the Southampton Inn was offering evacuees a rate of $100 a night. Now, post-storm, those who have been displaced because of damage or lack of power can pay $159 for one night, or $149 if they stay more than one night. Ms. Gotthelf said the inn also works with people on a case-by-case basis.

Norah King, reservation and front desk manager at the inn and the wife of Shinnecock Nation Tribal Trustee Randy King, said her home on the reservation was flooded and lost power. The couple stayed at the inn from Tuesday, October 30, to Monday, November 5, when power was restored.

“Our entire basement was flooded, and we lost our washer and dryer, and we had to have major repair to our furnace,” Ms. King said. “It could have been a lot worse. I feel thankful. What has been lost is repairable.”

According to Ms. King, Shinnecock member and Native Sons smoke shop owner Keith Arrindell Jr. paid for the elders and children of the tribe to stay at the hotel, renting approximately 18 rooms. “It was very honorable,” she said.

Ms. King said staying at the place she works at was convenient but also busy. Much of the staff worked overtime to attend to the full house.

“It was wonderful to have hot water and heat, but it was very tiring and a lot of work back and forth,” she said. “It was a little bit of good and a little bit of not so good, but my working here allowed me to be here and help when needed and oversee everything.”

Other Southampton hotels and inns were just as busy as shelter and electricity became precious things. The Enclave Inn on County Road 39, which will soon be named the Southampton Escape Hotel, the Hampton Hamlet Inn on Montauk Highway, the 1708 House in Southampton Village, and the Atlantic in Shinnecock Hills took in families with elderly members and children, as well as insurance adjusters, Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Grid workers, and electrical workers. Each hotel gave evacuees a discounted price.

“I don’t know how a hotel can function other than as a member of the community,” said Ms. Gotthelf.

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