Tenants in building that housed Umbrella Hotel living without heat, hot water
by Jacob Henry
Feb 10, 2021 | 1714 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Parts of the building have been left neglected, as no one is there to take care of any services.
Parts of the building have been left neglected, as no one is there to take care of any services.
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A notice that was put in the building after the announcement the hotel would be closed.
A notice that was put in the building after the announcement the hotel would be closed.
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The thermostat in Ronina Singh’s room reads 53 degrees. It once got as low as 47.
The thermostat in Ronina Singh’s room reads 53 degrees. It once got as low as 47.
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The reception area of the hotel has also been neglected.
The reception area of the hotel has also been neglected.
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Two out of three elevators do not work in the building.
Two out of three elevators do not work in the building.
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Tenants that live in the same building that housed the Umbrella Hotel in Kew Gardens have lived with a constant barrage of criminal activity, culminating in a fatal shooting on New Year’s Day that eventually led to the hotel’s closure.

However, the seven remaining tenants say they are now living in their rent-stabilized apartments without heat or hot water.

Rohini Singh, a mother who has lived there since 2017, said the owners and management company have abandoned the building, leaving tenants to fend for themselves.

“We are on our own,” Singh said. “The temperature in my apartment was at 47 degrees this week. I’ve put in two tickets at 311 for heat and hot water. No one has showed up at my apartment to check anything.”

She added that the front doors are locked, which means that mail cannot be delivered, while basic maintenance like trash removal hvae completely vanished.

Jonathan Kastin, another resident in the building, has heat, but no hot water. He has taken it upon himself to serve as a make-shift tenants’ association leader.

“People are worried, scared and they’re suffering,” Kastin said. “They’re sitting there, living in their winter coats. I don’t know how they manage it.”

He said a worker came to the building on Friday to fix his hot water, but refused to hear any other tenant complaints.

“I said, ‘There are other tenants here and they are having heat and hot water problems,’” Kastin said. “She’s like ‘I’m just responding to my own ticket. Let them put in their own ticket.’ It was crazy. She just didn’t want to know about anything.”

He also worried about the elevators in the building. Two out of the three do not work, with the third being unreliable.

“The next time the elevator breaks, those of us on the top floor will be stranded,” Kastin said.

A notice posted in the building the day after the hotel closed advised residents to begin looking for another apartment immediately.

“It’s a hilarious notice, if it weren’t so awful” Kastin said. “They never communicated about conditions in the building. They would never send us emails, they would never talk to us.

“It’s like we’re squatting in an abandoned building,” Kastin added. “There’s nobody to talk to, it’s just silence.”

He said that tenants were sold on a promise of luxury, that the building would be turned into a fancy hotel with 24-hour concierge service, a gym and more services, not a homeless shelter, which it became in 2017.

Kastin said Councilwoman Karen Koslowtiz was helpful in removing the homeless from the building, but that was only the beginning of the troubles.

“[The owner] lost interest in the building,” Kastin said. “Without the homeless people, he couldn’t make any money off of it. That is followed with a couple of years of not-so-benign neglect. There were no major repairs.”

The last straw was during the middle of the pandemic, when the hotel began to rent out rooms for parties, bringing in what Kastin called a “shady crowd.”

He said during the night of the New Year’s Day shooting, tenants were scared and left defenseless.

“My son heard loud voices arguing outside,” Kastin said. “Even after the shooting, parties continued until six in the morning. They didn’t stop partying after they killed the guy.”

Singh said her teenage daughter witnessed the shooting and was left traumatized by the incident.

“She came in and told me, ‘Mom, someone died downstairs,’” Singh said. “It’s scarring. You don’t want to keep your kids in these situations.”

Singh has also experienced violence herself, recounting a story where she asked someone to wait for the next elevator due to social-distancing guidelines, resulting in the mother to be pushed and kicked by a random woman staying at the hotel.

“She said ‘I’m going to get in if you want to get out,’” she said. “I was all by myself so I kept quiet.”

Singh said she began looking for apartments after the hotel closed, but this has become yet another struggle for her and her daughter.

“It’s going to be very hard to pack up everything in the middle of the pandemic,” Singh said. “My daughter goes to school. It’s not easy.”

Kastin also said that the tenants shouldn’t have to leave, and is working with a legal aid lawyer who believes that the owner and management are leaving the building to ruin to force people out.

“We have some protections as rent-stabilized tenants,” Kastin said. “We don’t want to reward this bad behavior. If they want us out, someone should come to us and negotiate with us and talk to us about a settlement.”

The building is managed by Good Karma, which is run by Manny Kumar.

“I’m no longer associated with it,” Kumar said when reached for comment. “I have no clue who is responsible now, it’s not my problem.”

Singh said tenants are not planning on leaving anytime soon.

“If they want to treat us like this, then we will stand our ground and fight for our rights,” Singh said. “They cannot treat us like this. If this is what it comes to, we have suffered the worst, why leave now?”
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