More than 100 people released from Rikers Island are being housed at a Fresh Meadows hotel as part of a city initiative that local leaders say lacked any community input.
The city is putting up the formerly incarcerated New Yorkers at a Wyndham Garden Hotel on 186th Street to prevent the spread of COVID-19 behind bars and in homeless shelters, officials said. The Office of Emergency Management and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice are overseeing the program.
The city paid for rooms in the hotel because the individuals did not have stable housing and would have otherwise become homeless, said MOCJ spokesperson Colby Hamilton. A handful of other hotels around the city have served the same function.
“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, while we work with them to find more permanent living solutions going forward,” Hamilton said.
The individuals were released from Rikers Island because they have pre-existing medical conditions that put them at particular risk of COVID-19, he said.
Local Councilmember Barry Grodenchik said he was blindsided by the city’s plan.
“We found out because people started calling the office from the community,” Grodenchik said. “We didn’t get advance notice. At all.”
Grodenchik said he and members of Community Board 8 will tour the facility Wednesday.
The employee who answered the phone at the Wyndham Gardens hotel directed questions to City Hall Tuesday.
“This information is confidential and we cannot give information about who is staying with us and if you want more information you can call the Mayor’s Office,” the official said.