Wyndham Hotel

Photo Courtesy of World Journal

Fresh Meadows residents have taken aim at the city’s decision to transfer Rikers Island inmates to a neighborhood hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wyndham Garden Hotel, located in Fresh Meadows, has been used by the city to house more than 100 released detainees from Rikers Island during the COVID 19 pandemic—including two sex offenders—a move residents and elected officials say they weren’t notified of, according to a story in the World Journal.

State Sen. John Liu sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month requesting the arrangement be short-term only, and that the tenants are moved out of the hotel before the school year starts in the fall. Chinese residents and businesses in the neighborhood collected more than 10,000 signatures on a petition against the arrangement which they plan to send to elected officials. They also won’t rule out the possibility of protesting. (Read the original story in Chinese.)

Located at 61-27 186 St. in Fresh Meadows, an area home to many Chinese residents, the Wyndham Garden Hotel started working with the city last month to house the detainees who were released to reduce the risk of COVID-19 breakouts on Rikers Island.

Fresh Meadows United, a local organization of businesses and residents, as well as the grassroots group New York City Residents Alliance, immediately began to knock doors to collect signatures to fight against the plan. Critics argue there are safety risks in allowing former detainees and homeless people moving in the neighborhood.

In his letter to de Blasio, Liu said sex offenders are among those who were moved into the hotel. He said safety is the priority of residents during the pandemic, but it is disappointing that the city made this arrangement without notifying the community.

“Especially when you [de Blasio] are aiming to reopen the schools in the Fall. P.S. 177, P.S. 26, P.S. 173 and Francis Lewis High School are all within walking distance from the hotel. The city should better protect the safety of families and children,” the letter said. Liu called for the mayor to make the plan temporary, and to move the tenants somewhere else by the beginning of the new school year.

Kenneth Chiu, a member of the Fresh Meadows United and vice president of the Asian American Community Empowerment, said there are 12 schools in the neighborhood serving more than 12,000 students, in addition to local learning centers.

“By law, sex offenders have to stay at least 1,000 feet from schools and children facilities,” Chiu said. “This is clearly against the law.”

Residents and businesses said they’ll file the petition to elected officials, including Liu and Council Member Barry Grodenchik, to ask for support. And they are also not ruling out the possibility of organizing marches and rallies.

A spokesman for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice previously told the Queens Courier that the city was working to ‘find more permanent living situations’ for former Rikers inmates. “Protecting the health and safety of all New Yorkers was what drove the rapid jail population reduction at the start of the COVID-19 crisis,” the spokesman told the paper last month. “This and other hotels have provided an invaluable network of stable, reliable lodging for those in need, keeping people departing the jail system out of congregate housing.”

Since the start of the COVID-10 pandemic, criminal justice advocates have been pushing for the city to reduce its jail population, saying incarceration poses a high risk for infections, particularly for inmates who are older or have chronic health conditions.

Previous City Limits investigations have found that statistics usually do not bear out fears about crime associated with the presence of supportive housing, shelters or jail facilities, and also that sex offenders and other people who were once incarcerated are often subject to unfair discrimination after leaving jail or prison.

World Journal story translated and condensed by Rong Xiaoqing

7 thoughts on “Hotel-Turned-Shelter for Released Rikers Detainees Faces Backlash in Fresh Meadows

    • its unknown if our schools will reopen in the fall but as a resident in fresh Meadows who lives 6 blocks away from the wyndham hotel I just want to warn my neighbors that whatever people are residing at this hotel right.now
      it’s not fair to our kids to be prevented to live their innocent lives because of the fear that they could be hurt by the sex offenders and criminals who were placed in the hotel by the city and our mayor he may think by removing these people from the jails and hospitals he may help to prevent the further spread of a pandemic,but spreading danger among the communities is worse.

  1. We have the same situation here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I live next to one of the hotel/shelters. As I type this comment I can hear one of the ‘residents’ of the hotel yelling outside as they always do. My neighborhood is not Sutton Place in Manhattan, its a working class/working poor neighborhood. That said, it doesn’t mean that the city has a right to dump people wherever they feel like and effectively destroy our quality of life. Sunset Park is suffering and it’s not fair. We are stressed, we are scared and we are angry. Also, it’s not just the city, it’s the hotel developers who build and realize they can make more money converting the hotels to shelters. When the hotels are initially being built, nobody had a problem with them because we all thought it would bring more businesses and industry to the neighborhood. not to mention the fact that we would have hotels where guests could stay when visiting. Now it’s just the opposite. Businesses have left, responsible residents left. Why would anyone want to live in an area that is dangerous and full of nuisances?
    Sunset Park was on it’s way up but with the advent of the hotels, it’s on it’s way down. It’s also distressing because the City is dumping homeless people that might have COVID 19 in our midst. These people hardly wear masks. The City was supposed to relieve our neighborhood by removing the hotels but now they are using the excuse of COVID 19 as an excuse to keep the hotels open. If the City is determined to destroy neighborhoods, they are doing a great job of doing so. As soon as I’m able to leave NY, I will leave all this anxiety behind me.

  2. You guys complaining about this are extremely economically and racially prejudiced, at best.

    Hey, Barbara Lee, why is it okay with you that *rich and wealthy* young hoodlums race and drag race around the streets of Fresh Meadows all night long in high performance cars with no mufflers (or mufflers intended to imitate the sounds of firearms discharging) destroying our quality of life, but not okay for some desperate homeless and poor folk to use a hotel to reside in during the crisis?

    Perhaps one of these filfthy rich hoodlums with a fancy car racing around Fresh Meadows in outrageously noisy fashion with no regard for safety, decency or human life is your own son? Where’s the outrage there?

    Why’s all your outrage directed to the victims of this horrendously unequal society – one that persecutes the poor and rewards the rich and well connected?

    • Hey Nathan? Have u complained about the drag racing of loud vehicles or are u just complaining here? Do u agree with placing ex cons in our neighborhood? How do u know these loud cars come from rich folk?

  3. the coalition of the rockaways has been fighting against this from beginIng councilman in flushing voted to close down Rikers hes a nice guy but he sided with the leftest with no regard for neighborhoods and that no bail is anouther terrible situation he proberly thought deblasio wouldnt put one in flushing however they didnt care about farrockaway and southeast queens they need supportive housing and they never should have passed no bail BRUCE JACOBS COALITION OF THE ROCKAWAYS AND SOUTHEAST QUEENS AND MEDICAL AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ANOUTHER PROBLEM THE POLICE CANT DO THEIR JOB IM A 911 1ST RESPONDER USN VETERAN AND 30 YEARS NYCTA AND 4 YEARS SCHOOL SAFETETY

  4. Wyndham Hotel in FM was funded and created under USCIS and SEC under EB5 program whose personnel were recruited from China; whose purpose as submitted and duly govt registered was to serve the hotel and tourism. Therefore, the Company, under Mayflower, should be restrained from operating as an “halfway house”, contrary to their purpose and operation of its establishment.

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