Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying four suspects in connection with the city’s first homicide of the year.
The Umbrella Hotel — criticized by Kew Gardens residents, elected officials and police throughout 2020 as a major danger to the community — was the site of a triple shooting a little more than one hour into the new year. One victim died.
“We’re working diligently to get these guys,” Capt. Antonio Fidacaro, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, told the Chronicle Monday, adding, “We’re just trying to focus in on who they are and try to arrest them as fast as we possibly can.”
He said police are still investigating if the victims were previously known to the suspects. The shooting followed an argument between two groups, with the commander saying police are trying to figure out how it started.
Fidacaro said officers were heading to the hotel moments before the shooting in response to a 311 call when the incident occurred. He said the reason for the call was not known.
The precinct had a 24-hour patrol outside the hotel for several months last year but it was discontinued. Police are discussing how to protect the area into the future.
“As far as what the actual deployment is going to be, that’s something that we are working on,” Fidacaro said.
The Guardian Angels volunteer crime prevention group led by Curtis Sliwa said it would patrol the area starting Monday. “One bad location can destroy a neighborhood,” Sliwa told the New York Post. “It’s got to stop.”
The hotel, located near the offices of the borough president and district attorney, was ripped by many in recent months for crime and quality-of-life issues.
“City Hall’s failure to act in a timely manner resulted in this preventable and atrocious tragedy,” Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing) said in a statement last Friday.
Rosenthal said back in October that a colleague was told by a top City Hall official “We don’t have time for this.”
Mayor de Blasio said during Monday’s press briefing that he instructed his team to close the hotel, which he called a blight on the community, immediately.
“We’re checking, obviously, all of our legal powers here to make sure what we do is legal and appropriate, but I want it closed,” he said.
The hotel was still open as of Wednesday morning.
Rosenthal and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said the mayor’s response “comes on the heels of a preventable murder” and that the solution should have come much sooner.
“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,” they said.
Community leader Ethan Felder, a frequent critic of the hotel, told the Chronicle Tuesday that de Blasio’s announcement is “a major victory for Kew Gardens” but one that was “bittersweet” given the circumstances.
“The fact that the mayor chose not to act in the summer was met with tragic results,” Felder said, adding, “There’s a lot of harm and pain that was felt by many in the community leading up to this announcement for the past year. A lot of fear.”
Last Friday’s shooting victim Robert Williams was killed the day before his 21st birthday. Friends and family held a vigil for him Saturday in Springfield Gardens.
“I pray that my son’s soul is at peace,” CBS reported his mother, Robin, saying. “I pray for those cowards that killed my son, shot his friend and others because their families are going to suffer also.”
Community activist Tony Herbert added, “I say to those cowards right now, do us a favor, turn yourself in. Turn yourself in and save us the expense of having to chase you down.”
Williams had been a championship quarterback and captain for the Rosedale Jets Football Association.
A 40-year-old man shot in the torso, arms and legs was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and is in critical condition.
Another 20-year-old man was shot in the left leg and taken to NewYork-Presbyterian Queens in stable condition.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477), or, for Spanish, 1 (888) 57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577, or by going to @nypdtips on Twitter. All tips are strictly confidential.