Following months of outcry from the community, the Umbrella Hotel in Kew Gardens closed and a night supervisor was charged with allowing criminal activity in and around the site.
Two police officers were stationed outside the location Monday afternoon and “Hotel closed” signs were on the door next to taped-up bullet holes on a revolving door.
There were three shooting incidents at the hotel in recent months, including the city’s first homicide of 2021.
“At long last the nightmare that was the Umbrella Hotel is over,” community leader Ethan Felder told the Chronicle. “For so many Kew Gardens residents the fear of being the next shooting or assault victim can now be put to rest. The mayor failed this community by dismissing this dangerous problem for many months. Now the healing process can begin and the quality of life restored after tragic damage done.”
Mayor de Blasio announced last Monday that he had told his team to close the hotel, which he called a blight on the community.
The hotel’s closure appears to be a management decision as opposed to a city order.
“The closure of the Umbrella Hotel is the direct result of the consistent and united community coalition which drew attention to the untenable situation at this site,” Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing) said in a statement. “While the hotel has chosen to close its doors, we must continue to urge city action to make this a permanent decision.”
He added that the city should have mechanisms in place to be able to address similar situations “before tragedy forces action.”
The Mayor’s Office did not reply when asked what actions, if any, would be taken to ensure the hotel is permanently closed.
Community Board 9 Chairman Kenichi Wilson said several people told him the Umbrella is not taking reservations and is permanently closed after they called it to inquire.
Nobody answered the phone number for the hotel when the Chronicle called Tuesday.
“If they shut down on a voluntary basis, there’s still fear that they can change their mind, which I highly doubt they would,” Wilson said.
Wilson noted that the news of the closure is a relief to many in the community.
“There was a tension when you walked past this location,” he said. “There was almost an anxiety not knowing if something was going to come out the front.”
District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that the hotel’s front desk supervisor, Gulshan Gandhi, was arrested Monday on criminal nuisance charges for allegedly maintaining conditions that endangered the safety and health of hotel guests and the community at large.
Katz said the 68-year-old regularly worked the 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. shift and was in charge during shootings outside on July 3, Aug. 9 and Jan. 1.
“The defendant allegedly — and repeatedly — allowed unsafe gatherings on the premises of the hotel, even after a shooting left bullet holes in its front door. This hotel has been a danger to the community,” said Katz, whose office is down the street.
Gandhi was charged with two counts of criminal nuisance in the second degree, a Class B misdemeanor. He received a desk appearance ticket and will appear in court at a future date.
Kew Gardens residents and elected officials had criticized the hotel for months and called on de Blasio to shut it down.
“There seemed to be no action from anybody except the Police Department, who was terrific,” Dom Pistone, president of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, told the Chronicle Monday, adding, “I’m glad that it’s closed. I’m annoyed that it took this long and I’m disappointed in the mayor’s response. Somebody had to die before we really got the mayor’s attention.”