Mayor orders shutdown of Kew Gardens hotel after New Year’s Day homicide

photos by Mari Estrella
The scene where one person was killed and two others were injured during a shooting in front of the Umbrella Hotel in Kew Gardens on Jan. 1, 2021. (Photo by Mari Estrella)

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said that he’s moving to shut down the troublesome Umbrella Hotel in Kew Gardens that has been the scene of at least three shootings in recent months, including the first homicide of 2021. 

“I do want that hotel closed,” de Blasio said during a City Hall press briefing about the hotel.

The mayor said he instructed his team to move to close the hotel immediately, after a “very, very painful report a few days ago.” 

The New Year’s Day triple shooting at the hotel, located at 124-18 Queens Blvd., resulted in one fatality, while two others were injured, according to authorities. 

The victim, 20-year-old Robert Williams of 255th Street in Rosedale, was transported to NYC Health & Hospitals/Queens, where he was pronounced dead, according to police. A 40-year-old man was transported to Jamaica Hospital in critical condition, and the second 20-year-old victim was transported to NewYork-Presbyterian Queens in stable condition. 

Robert Williams died in the Jan. 1 fatal shooting at the Umbrella Hotel in Kew Gardens. (Photo by Mari Estrella)

The shooting victims were together at the hotel and engaged in a dispute with a group of at least four people before the shooting, a police spokesperson said. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who is also calling for the shutdown of the hotel, said the fatal shooting was a “sad and troubling way to start the new year.” 

“This hotel is a public nuisance that has no place in Kew Gardens or anywhere in our borough or city. The hotel’s guests and residents of the surrounding community should not be subjected to its dangerous conditions,” Richards said. 

Last summer, the hotel was the scene of a drive-by shooting and a separate incident, according to officials. In November, the hotel was hit with more than a dozen violations from the city, after residents and elected officials had complained of illegal activity and loud parties taking place at the hotel, disrupting the quality of life in the neighborhood. 

“We’re checking obviously all of our legal powers here to make sure that what we do is legal and appropriate, but I want it closed,” de Blasio said. “I think it’s been a blight on the community and it should not be that going forward. So, we’re going to use all the power of the city government to get that closed and stop having the community suffer from what’s happened at the hotel.” 

In a joint statement, Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said the mayor’s instruction to begin proceedings to shut down the hotel should have come much sooner. 

“For months, we joined the community, colleagues and law enforcement in drawing attention to the untenable situation at the Umbrella Hotel, which included a litany of crimes including various shootings, underage prostitution and illicit drug sales,” the lawmakers said. “While the mayor has taken the first steps towards a solution, we must continue to stay vigilant and hold him accountable until the hotel is shut down.” 

Rosenthal and Koslowitz said they will continue to work with their colleagues such as Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator Leroy Comrie and Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, who have been strong allies of the Kew Gardens community throughout the monthslong ordeal.