Queens councilman urges city to give more support to first responders

City Councilman Robert Holden. (QNS file photo)

With so many first responders and essential workers in the public transit, health care, sanitation and delivery industries coming from Queens neighborhoods, Councilman Robert Holden is calling on the city to partner with hotels to provide rooms to these workers who are on the frontlines and fear transmitting COVID-19 to their families at home.

In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Holden wrote that first responders and other essential service workers do not have the ability to work from home.

“The city has an obligation to protect all the men and women who help maintain our city and are on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus. We should be offering frontline workers and first responders hotel rooms in an effort to not only stop the spread but also allay the anxieties of our employees over the health of their families,” Holden wrote. “These unsung heroes deserve more from their municipal government, and as the crisis only grows, we must start implementing policy to assist them. Considering the hotel industry is taking an economic hit during this pandemic, this would be a good way to both support our employees and support the industry and its workforce.”

The Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street and several other hotels began providing free lodging to doctors, nurses and medical personnel, but Holden wants the city to consider other workers.

“I have heard from many of the men and women who are deemed essential and work for the various city agencies. One correction officer is so concerned about having potentially contracted the virus, that after finishing his tour, this officer elects not to go back home,” Holden wrote. “The fear is that the virus could be spread to loved ones, a fear shared by many of our frontline workers. Our city employees deserve more in the face of this growing threat, and I urge you to take every action necessary to help them and their families.”

The de Blasio administration is working on just such a plan with hotels.

“The city is working aggressively to identify additional medical surge spaces to expand hospital capacity and create as many additional beds as possible,” a City Hall spokesman said. “We are considering large spaces, which includes hotels, that can be converted into healthcare surge facilities to house those on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19. We are working closely with the hotel association and large chains to identify these spaces for capacity. The hotels can be used to isolate healthcare workers and others who are displaying symptoms or have come into contact with a positive COVID-19 patient. They can also be used to keep essential workers closer to their workplace. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support and offers to help from this industry.”