When Brian Acosta Arya first started working at the Lincoln Tunnel Motel, he thought it’d just be a temporary thing.
The motel in North Bergen, N.J., was the family business. Arya’s dad opened it years ago, after immigrating to the U.S. from India.
That was about a decade ago. Back then, Arya had no clue he’d make a life out of his dad’s business. He also never could’ve guessed that the motel — and its astounding, kindhearted ethos — would become a viral sensation.
But here Arya is, 10 years later, with nearly 500,000 followers watching him go about his days at the motel. His TikTok page, @ltmotel, shares endless details about the place — from working the night shift to letting TV shows film on the property to chasing down guests who left their passports in their rooms.
There’s another thing that makes the Lincoln Tunnel Motel special, though. It’s one of the reasons that Arya has so many supportive followers, and why he’s been highlighted by news outlets like PBS.
Arya, more than anything, has developed a reputation for helping people in need. Whether that means extending stays, offering discounts, letting customers in without an ID or even giving out rooms for free, he’s always found a way to use his business for good. That mentality, Arya told In The Know, started years ago, back when his dad was in charge.
“My dad was always known for that,” he said. “He was always willing to give people a break, and I was just my father’s son.”
Thanks to TikTok, though, that reputation has taken on a whole new life. Arya started his page in 2019, mainly as a creative outlet and a way to take advantage of his endless hours on the job. Then, something strange happened.
On a whim, Arya decided he’d make a post telling users that he’d offer anyone a free room — all they had to do was follow his page. He got some followers, but he also got countless messages.
Many of those DMs, Arya said, came from young people who had moved out of their homes. Some were living in cars or just on the street.
“I got the idea that this was maybe a crisis that no one’s talking about, but I’m reading about [it] all the time,” Arya said.
Arya is right to call it a crisis. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an estimated 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness each year. Arya decided that the Lincoln Tunnel Motel could be a safe space for some of them.
“And I realized that our place — what I was putting out there — was a place where you can go and no one judges who you are,” he told In The Know. “And that’s so important when you’re that age.”
Thanks to the motel’s growing TikTok presence, Arya has been able to get the word out about his philosophy. When asked to describe what makes his business special, he gave one word: independent. For him, that means his motel is free to make decisions about who it offers rooms to — and how those rooms could impact their lives.
“I’m here now,” Arya said. “I ain’t going nowhere.”
In many ways, the job has done just as much for Arya. When he started working at the Lincoln Tunnel, he was a young, single guy trying to pursue an acting career. Now he’s a family man — with a wife and four kids — and a career that offers both a creative outlet and a way to truly help people in need.
“It’s a sense of purpose,” he said. “I mean, we all want that from our jobs.”
If you want to help the Lincoln Tunnel Motel, you can do so by donating to its #FreeRoomForU Initiative, which helps provide cost-free rooms to those without homes. You can also provide supplies via Arya’s Amazon wishlist.
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