A New Bad Days Special Bulletin:
Kew Gardens, Queens, New York
2021 was barely over an hour old when two groups of men got into a brawl while a party was going on at one of the rooms inside a hotel. The fight spilled out onto the street by the front entrance. As the rumble continued, shots were fired and one man got hit in the leg and died from his wounds and two other men also got struck and hospitalized. Four men involved in the brawl and killing fled the scene of the crime.
What makes this incident distinctive besides being the first homicide of the year following a year that had the most murders New York City has had in 11 years and the amount of shootings and victims than in the last two years combined is where this took place; the Umbrella Hotel, where only 4 months earlier a shooting following a brawl happen inside the lobby, blowing out the revolving and regular door windows of the entrance.
Despite persistent community complaints and condemnations by City Council members and the current President of Queens Donovan Richards and their universal demands to shut down, the Umbrella continued to run it’s business for months. Although not entirely as a place for high end lodging but for speakeasy DJ and bottle parties, brazenly flaunting pandemic guidelines. Spillover from these unusual and illicit events lead to consistent environmental noise disruptions aggravating residents of the usually quiet neighborhoods, with drunk patrons milling about the area, booming systems from idling cars and also blowing up fireworks on some occasions.
Reaction from the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio when pressed about the wanton illicit activity and crime at the Umbrella went with unfilled promises of enforcement and habitual indifference and this activity naturally continued. And as the history of this sleazebag hotel as showed, it continued naturally before, because ever since this hotel got built, it’s been a pox on the area despite what the developers and management originally proposed when it got zoned for building in the neighborhood, that it would be filled with upper class lodgers and residents once it got built. The expectations made for it would be for town of Kew Gardens to have a veneer of cool to the area, kind of like high end towns like Williamsburg and Long Island City with similar lux hotels.
Except what they got wasn’t cool, but “Kewl” and it only resulted in diminishing returns…
That’s another interesting twist, because before it was the Umbrella Hotel, it was a national chain hotel the Comfort Inn and apparently it had trouble getting the clientele it desired and decided to house the homeless in all those vacant rooms to make up for whatever revenue was lost, which was apparently a helluva surprise for people who were already renting there. Oh, that’s another thing, this wasn’t just a hotel but a mixed use building with “luxury” apartments.
Apparently, some of the new and depressingly impoverished clientele for the “Kewl” were wreaking havoc on the streets in the vicinity of it and nearby locales, which included the Union Turnpike transit hub, with reports of aggressive panhandling on the sidewalks, mentally ill men yelling at random people, and drug and fecal detritus found in the stairwells of the station.
In the 3 years since that scoop, it’s not known when the owners or proprietors (whoever they are) changed the name to Umbrella from the lame Kewl or if it’s even still owned by the Comfort. It’s not even known if anyone is renting the luxury apartments there anymore (probably keeping quiet). But it definitely was still operating as a homeless shelter even while still renting out room to travelers vacationing in Queens while devolving further into a den of iniquity.
But because of the pandemic, the Umbrella continued taking in the homeless because of city and state guidelines to prevent contagion but evidently willingly booked rooms for illegal ragers for months despite state bans of indoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
After the deadly shooting and immediate demands of its closing by officials and the community and with de Blasio feeling the pressure after years of insouciance about the hotel’s well known notoriety he finally closed the hotel down for business and probably abolished their contract to house the homeless too. And a man had to lose his life for it to be done. Which is actually the modus operandi policy of NYC government, which is to let crime and urban decay continue as long as people don’t notice or don’t die.
What really makes the Umbrella Hotel saga deranged is that with all the ruckus of wanton behavior and crime going on there is that the Queens Criminal Courthouse and the District Attorney’s office is a 5 minute walk away from there.
And also a defense attorney’s office for your convenience.
Apparently, these venues and salient facts had an influence on sudden proactive enforcement against the Umbrella Hotel’s sordid existence with the arrest of a 68-year-old bell clerk. Despite Queens D.A. Melinda Katz’s grandstanding collar, no one in management or even the owner have not been held accountable for their bigger part in the allowance and profiting from the illegal goings on at their establishment or the chaos that ensued.
And the four men suspected of the murder are still running free on the streets.
Great job Mr. Mayor and Councilor Katz.