During a virtual meeting with South Queens leaders and lawmakers on Thursday evening, mayoral staffer Lydon Sleeper discussed further action on closing Umbrella Hotel in Kew Gardens.
This comes after a string of unsavory incidents, culminating in a shooting that left 20-year-old Robert Williams dead on New Years Day. While multiple multi-agency operations were conducted throughout the summer, the hotel continues to be a problem.
“It’s a complicated set of circumstances and situations,” Sleeper said. “We do not have the ability to unilaterally shut down the hotel, nobody does.”
Sleeper spoke about using nuisance abatement laws to close the hotel, which allows the NYPD to combat prostitution and unsavory establishments, including places where drugs or alcohol can be sold to minors.
“We are pursuing a nuisance abatement case,” Sleeper said. “That is the instrument we have in order to close a building. We have to build that case, but it’s not a simple straightforward thing.”
Community leaders and residents in the meeting were visibly upset there was still no definite shutdown of the hotel, and Sleeper acknowledged that “this has gone on for too long” and promised that the mayor is “taking it very seriously.”
“We can’t just order them to close,” Sleeper said. “We are bound by many laws to prevent that. If we could unilaterally shut down the hotel with the snap of our fingers, we would have done that given all the activity at the hotel.”
District Attorney Melinda Katz said it is a “very difficult situation” at the hotel, but promised that all crimes are being prosecuted there.
“That will help the city build a case for closing it,” she said. “This has been a topic of non-stop work. You will see things happen relatively quickly. It is a danger to the community and we are doing everything we can.”
State Senator Leroy Comrie said he’s “personally hurt” that the hotel is still open for business.
“We’re frustrated,” Comrie said. “I feel sorry for the parents that lost their child.”
Resident Madyha Farooqui said that that the meeting was “a waste of time” and pleaded that closing the hotel “needs to move forward.”
“The city is liable,” she said. “The violence has been raging, there have been guns going off left right and center. And you come here, only after a homicide. We’ve had enough of this.”
The mother of the victim killed on New Year's Day, Robin Williams, pleaded for the hotel to be shut down.
“We need to do our best to get this place shut down,” she said. “It seems like it’s going to be a little struggle to do so. I don’t want another parent to feel the way I feel.”
The DA’s office is prosecuting 16 incidents that have occurred at the hotel since May 2020, but the investigation into the closure of the hotel is still ongoing.