Why this man spent the entire pandemic alone in five-star NYC hotel

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Isolated in the lap of luxury, he watched the skyline go dark.

When New York City went into its COVID-19-induced lockdown in March 2020, the fire department announced properties were required to keep one person on-site in case of trouble. For Midtown’s five-star Chatwal hotel, that person became Robert Mallia, Crain’s reported.

Mallia was not the 76-room-hotel owner’s first choice, but when multiple other people passed on the gig out of fear or to prioritize their family, Mallia — a 36-year-old childless bachelor — volunteered.

“Having the chance to live in a building that you worked on is cool,” said Mallia, an architectural designer for the Dream Hotel Group, which owns a portfolio of Manhattan hotels including the Chatwal. “My apartment is quite modest compared to a five-star luxury hotel.”

In the 14 months he’s been living in Room 307, the space has at least become familiar.

“When weeks became months, I got used to my room, like in ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ ” he said. “I’m content in my cell now.”

Initially, though, it was quite the adjustment from his Long Island City apartment, which he still makes frequent visits to.

“At first, it was strange,” he said. “It was perfectly silent.”

With all 59 members of the hotel’s staff gone, Mallia has been responsible for cleaning up after himself. For food, he has mostly relied on takeout. 

“It’s nothing too glamorous, I’m afraid,” he said.

His daily schedule involves waking up at 5:30 a.m. and doing a variety of housekeeping: sorting mail, looking for leaks and other maintenance problems. Once a week, he flushes every toilet in the building; twice a month, he turns on all the showers and sinks for 10 minutes.

His only companions are a rotation of security guards and the building’s chief engineer, who makes weekly visits to confirm fire code compliance.

The owner’s other hotels have begun reopening this month, and the Chatwal will likely follow suit soon — good news for Mallia.

“I miss being at home,” he said. 

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