From issues with double parking to reckless parties to multiple shooting incidents, activities at the hotel at 124-18 Queens Boulevard are turning the neighborhood upside down.
Residents are referring to the establishment as a “flophouse” where young people take advantage of the hotel’s slashed prices to create unofficial nightclubs, which could be breeding grounds for COVID-19 infections.
There have been reports of prostitution, drug use and even fireworks being set off from inside hotel rooms, according to speakers at Sunday’s rally.
“This is a community crisis,” said Andrea Crawford of Community Board 9. “This is a health crisis. This is a crime crisis.”
Crawford recalled a continuum of troubles since the building’s developer came to the neighborhood, quickly handing off management of the facility to various hotels. What was promised to be upscale lodging devolved with each iteration, leading to the current state of affairs at the Umbrella Hotel.
While residents commended the efforts of the 102nd Precinct to handle the situation, they simultaneously criticized apathy displayed by local elected officials in the matter.
“We are a few blocks from the DA’s office,” noted Crawford. “Where is Melinda Katz on this? We have heard nothing from her.”
One lawmaker who did show up was Councilman Donovan Richards, who recently won the Democratic nomination for Queens borough president. He vowed, if elected, not to allow what is a familiar problem in his Southeast Queens district to continue just across the street from his presumptive new office.
“Often it's the same exact story,” he explained. “It’s these unscrupulous developers who come in, who see an easy way out and, especially during hard times, find a way to make money easily at the expense of our communities to fill rooms.”
Richards mentioned legislation he is hoping will be adopted by the City Council that would require aspiring as-of-right hotel developers to obtain special permits through a vetting process.
At one point during the demonstration, two people could be heard loudly exiting the hotel involved in a heated argument, to which members of the crowd responded knowingly, “Exhibit A.” Police officers who were monitoring the rally slipped across the street to intervene.
Umbrella Hotel management has been noticeably absent from recent meetings involving community stakeholders, and has declined to respond to requests for comment.
“I find it completely unacceptable that the management of the hotel is refusing to come to the table,” said David Aronov, a community organizer who is campaigning to represent the district on the City Council.
“When the city is failing the residents who live here, we need people to show up and speak up about what’s going wrong,” he added. “This is a blight in our community when so many people are suffering.”