DA investigation leads to arrest of Umbrella Hotel front desk supervisor

NY: Rally to close the Umbrella Hotel
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The front desk supervisor of a troublesome Kew Gardens hotel home to a slew of shootings and sex trafficking charges in the past year, was arrested on Monday, Jan. 11, after an investigation by the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

Gulshan Gandhi, the front desk supervisor at the Umbrella Hotel, located at 124-18 Queens Blvd., faces two counts of criminal nuisance in the second degree, Katz said. In his role as front desk supervisor Gandhi, 68, created “conditions that endangered the safety and health of hotel guests and the community at large,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.

The infamous hotel has been the scorn of residents and local elected officials for the past year. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently explored shutting down the hotel using his mayoral powers, after a New Year’s Day triple shooting in front of the hotel left one dead. The hotel’s management voluntarily closed its doors on Friday, Jan. 8, according to signs posted in the hotel’s lobby. 

Over the weekend, around 20 Kew Gardens residents, including City Council candidate Douglas Shapiro, rallied in front of the hotel calling for its permanent closure

“This was a decision taken unilaterally by the owners under public pressure. Perhaps the owners are afraid of serious legal liability or of a tarnished reputation,” Shapiro said. “But we must understand their decision to voluntarily close is reversible. They have carried out some furnishings last night to prove their seriousness, but they can carry the furnishings back tomorrow, if they change their mind.” 

The New Year’s Day shooting, which killed 20-year-old Robert Williams and accounted for New York City’s first homicide of 2021, was the last straw for many in the neighborhood. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz joined the call for the hotel’s closure following the New Year’s slaying. 

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

Koslowitz and Rosenthal, in demanding a shutdown, lamented that the hotel’s closure hadn’t come 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 in a joint statement. “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.” 

In November, the Umbrella Hotel was hit with more than a dozen violations from the city, after residents complained of illegal activity and loud parties taking place on the hotel’s property. 

Over the summer in 2020, the hotel was also the scene of a drive-by shooting, according to officials.

Gandhi was working at the hotel during several fatal incidents.

“The defendant, who regularly worked as a supervisor for the 9 p.m. through 9 a.m. shift, was in charge  during at least three nights of violence at the hotel, including shootings on July 3, Aug. 9 and, most recently, a triple shooting on New Year’s Eve that took the life of a 20-year-old man,” Katz said. “The defendant  allegedly – and repeatedly – allowed unsafe gatherings on the premises of the hotel, even after a shooting left bullet holes in its front door. This hotel has been a danger to the community.”  

Gandi was issued a desk appearance ticket by police and will appear in court at a future date, the DA said.