Monsey Memories: The Demise of the Monsey Hotel
By: Yitzy Fried
As we have chronicled here in the past, Monsey used to be a resort town, and in 1903, the Monsey Hotel was built across from the Monsey train depot, which was at the intersection of Route 59 and Route 306.
The location was perfect; passengers could get off the train from the city and head straight for a good overnight rest. But as the glory days of Monsey as a vacation spot waned, the hotel became decrepit and attracted the lower elements. It then went through a difficult period until its ultimate dismantling.
Today, we read in the Journal News about a difficult period in the early 1980’s.
“Each time the New York Central Railroad line chugged past Monsey, riders got a glimpse of the Monsey Hotel, its finely-tiled exterior and wooden railings an invitation to overnight guests. Built in 1903, the stately building just across from Monsey depot had a reputation as a clean, well-managed hotel with a cozy saloon for weary travelers.
“All that has changed.
“Passenger trains no longer travel along Route 306, and the Monsey Hotel, now a rundown rooming house, has been declared unfit for human habitation. Rockland Health Officials have ordered the owners to empty the Victorian building of about 30 tenants, most of them welfare recipients, who say they have nowhere else to go.
“Inspectors contend the three-story building is a fire trap, that sewage drips from the second-floor bathroom to a first-floor stairway, and that debris and garbage cover the basement.
‘It’s horrendous,’ said Health Commissioner Dr. Daniel Hyman. ‘That’s the only way I would describe it. It’s worse than any of those hotels in the city you see pictures of. Those places are palaces compared to the Monsey hotel.’
“Outside, several residents sat on a creaky porch in the summer heat or leaned against the tile walls, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Tenants there, who entertain guests on hoods of broken-down cars, feel the hotel should remain open.
“I don’t want it to close. I like it here,’ said John Ucci, a tenant at the Monsey Hotel since 1974. ‘Besides, I have no place else to go.’ Most of the tenants, some sharing rooms, have been placed in the hotel by state and county agencies, which pay the owner rents of up to $300 per month. ‘I used to get drunk and break windows around here or grab the stair railing and pull it out, Kevin Royce said. ‘Yeah, we’ve been destructive, but we’d fix up what we busted up. I don’t see what all the concern is about.”
Forty years have passed since those lines were written. As we will see another time, a local developer would turn it around, and the Monsey Hotel would get a second life.