Volume 77 / Number 51 - May 21 - 27, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

A Salute to Union Square
A special Villager supplement

For W Hotel manager, giving back is good business

 By Bonnie Rosenstock

Edward Maynard, the general manager of the upscale W Hotel on the northeast corner of Union Square and 17th St., enjoys relating how in 1985 he got bounced from his first hotel job with the Stamford Marriot in Connecticut. After about nine weeks of a 16-week management-training program, the manager told him they were going to drop him from the program.

“They told me I could stay on as an hourly employee, but otherwise they didn’t think I would make a good manager,” he recalls with a great smile.

So, on the advice of his father, he took that hourly position as night auditor, buckled down, proved himself, was promoted to night manager and finished the program.

“I would love to go back now, and sing, ‘If you could see me now….’ I love what I do. The W is a great hotel and a great job.”

Maynard has got a lot to sing about these days. He has just celebrated his second year with the hotel, which has been housed in the magnificent 1911 landmark Renaissance revival building for the last eight years. Under his stewardship, the W Union Square has become rated number one in guest satisfaction among the 20 W hotels in North America. They are sold out every Monday through Saturday, with a year-round 90 percent occupancy rate for the 21-floor, 270-room facility.

“It’s a real feather in my cap,” says Maynard, “helping the staff understand that the hospitality business is about taking care of people and exceeding their expectations. People in business forget the reason they are in business. It’s easy for me to go back to the basics and remind the talent, what we call the staff, to take care of guests.”

Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, also sings Maynard’s praises for his involvement in the community.

“The W Hotel and Ed Maynard embody the very best of what it means to give back to the community and partner with the U.S.P. to make really terrific things happen in the neighborhood,” she says. “It’s really a spectacular gift they give to the community.”

In October 2006, the hotel was bought by Istithmar Hotels, Dubai’s leading investment house, for $285 million. Maynard has ensured that the hotel’s support has continued even with the change of ownership, according to Falk.

“We are really thankful to not only Ed but also to the hospitality group for continuing that support,” Falk says.

Maynard firmly believes in community involvement, and not just as a manager of a business.

“I think everybody is in this together, and if we all work together it would be a benefit for everyone over all,” he states. “I am incredibly fortunate to manage such an incredible machine of a hotel because we make millions of dollars in revenue and we have great programs for all of our employees and pay them very well, so I think when we can give back to the community, it’s very rewarding.”

The W hosts the Partnership’s annual fundraising education luncheon, which supports programs at Washington Irving High School. Thanks to the hotel’s participation, 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to the students. The W also contributes to the U.S.P.’s Summer in the Square series, an eight-week series of free programming, which includes yoga classes, children’s performances and adult concerts. They are a major supporter of Harvest in the Square in September; the chef of Todd English’s Olive Restaurant, located in the W, always prepares one of the dishes for this popular food-tasting festival. For Madison Square Park’s annual Big Apple Barbecue, the hotel provides rooms for many of the out-of-town participants, which is “another form of community relations,” notes Maynard.

Man(ager) on the go

The May 17-18 weekend was perhaps typical for Maynard, with a hectic-but-satisfying schedule. First, as he does every Saturday morning, he volunteers as a coach for his 6-year-old son’s T-ball team, which plays in the Stuyvesant Town and Cooper Village 10-team Little League. Then, he headed over to Union Square Park to rake some leaves and plant flowers, as he did last spring as part of the It’s My Park! Day held throughout the city, sponsored locally by the U.S.P. in collaboration with the Partnership for Parks.

“I love being next to the park,” declares Maynard. “My kids and I enjoy Union Square Park, Madison Square Park or Stuyvesant Park because we live on E. 23rd St. Instead of taking from our environment, it’s being able to give back.”

“It’s terrific to have partners who get involved not only on the corporate, professional side,” states Falk, “but who also come and give of their own personal time and energy to make what we are doing a success.”

All five members of the Maynard household were there. That includes Aidan, 6, Dylan, 5, and the newest arrival, 8-month-old Sebastian, whom Maynard and his partner, Glenn, are in the process of adopting. They got the child when he was born through a foster care agency on 14th St.

“It’s another great opportunity to be able to do something for someone else,” says Maynard. “We just love children. We would have a hard time accepting a child and then having to give it back, so we wanted to be on the adoption side of it.”

Maynard and his stay-at-home partner have been together for 14 years.

“We both have the same values in life,” Maynard says. “I have such a great job, and he gets to stay home and raise the kids and provide them with such self-confidence.”

Maynard admits that once in a while, people look at them funny.

“We offset it because my partner instills in them such great values, to be proud of who you are, and you have two dads that love you very much. They get it.”

Rounding out the weekend, on Sunday the whole brood took part in the 6-mile AIDS walk.

“I really feel it’s important to teach them to give back and help others,” Maynard says. He also supports the Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk High School for gay and lesbian students, located on Astor Pl.

Additionally, Maynard works closely with the Players Club and National Arts Club at Gramercy Park.

“I go to a lot of functions and great events, build friendships and partnerships, like Jennifer, who is not only a great leader but also a great individual,” says Maynard. “She kind of has me eating out of the palm of her hand. Anything she needs, I’m always there for her as long as it’s good for business.”

Maynard, 44, grew up in the Adirondacks, in Hudson Falls, a small rural community in Upstate New York, just south of Lake George. He was raised by his stay-at-home mom, and his father worked in a paper mill. He remains close with his two younger sisters. He never stayed at a hotel when he was growing up.

“My family was resourceful,” he recalls. “For summer vacations, we had a camper attached to the car and camped out a lot.”

Hotels took root in him

He graduated from Paul Smith’s College near Lake Placid in 1984. The school offered degrees in hotel management and forestry.

“There’s no reason they should go together,” says Maynard, “except that it is in the Adirondacks and there are lots of forests and they happened to own a hotel at the time, so students had to work in it as part of their education.”

Before he joined the W, Maynard worked for Ian Schrager on the closing, design and conversion of the Gramercy Park Hotel. During the renovation, Schrager asked him to take over the managerial position at the Morgan Royalton Hotel on W. 44th St. He wasn’t looking for another job when a friend called to tell him that the W was struggling and looking for the right general manager.

“Truthfully, if it was about one of the other [four] Ws in New York, I would have thought much longer about it,” admits Maynard. “But when they said it was Union Square, it was an easy choice to begin talking with them. I think the architecture is amazing, the environment of the neighborhood is outstanding, it’s close to where I live, and I believed in it.”

He had to interview with the staff, the Starwood people, the W people, the old owners and the prospective new owners.

“I got to five or six interviews, now I really want it,” he said. “My parents instilled in me to never give up and what you go for, you win.” Thirteen interviews later, they offered him the job.

The first quarter of 2009, the W will be getting a makeover. It is typical to renovate a hotel between every five and eight years, explains Maynard. David Rockwell, the original designer of the W, whose firm is located across the park at 5 Union Square West, will work on the project. They will refresh the guest rooms, the guest corridors and the “living room,” which is what the lobby is called. The ballroom, with its unique massive marble columns and extraordinary ceiling, and the meeting space will not be altered.

“Our vision is to continue to exceed our owners’ expectations in terms of revenue projections and profitability,” Maynard says. “We are in business to make money for our owners. I equate my job to the coach of a team. Everybody plays different parts, and we’re all in it to win the game.

“I believe in what I do from the standpoint of managing the staff and realizing that I have not only to take care of the 200 people who work for me, but I have their families, and I take that very seriously,” he continues. “I also think about the health, safety and welfare of all the people who are staying in my 270 rooms every night before I go to sleep.”

Sleep is something that Maynard doesn’t seem to get much of. He gets up around 5 a.m. to go to the Equinox health club on 19th St. to run for an hour on the treadmill because he is training for the New York City Marathon in November. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University’s School of Continuing Educational and Professional Studies, where he teaches customer-relationship management to undergraduates one evening a week. He normally works until around 7 p.m. and spends about an hour with his kids before they go to sleep.

How does he do it all?

“The love of my family keeps me going,” he declares.

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