Mayor de Blasio had no clue his administration is housing around 100 former Rikers Island inmates at a Wyndham hotel in Queens — even after a group of lawmakers wrote him a letter about the public safety concerns last month.
“I don’t have knowledge of a single location with 100 former inmates,” de Blasio said on WNYC radio Friday after a neighbor of the Wyndham in Fresh Meadows called in about the hotel.
“That doesn’t jibe with what I know. I don’t know of any place where there’s that kind of concentration of former inmates,” de Blasio said.
In late July, Rep. Grace Meng, state Sens. John Liu and Toby Stavisky, Assembly members David Weprin and Nily Rozic, and Councilmen Barry Grodenchik and Peter Koo penned a letter to de Blasio voicing safety concerns from local residents.
There have been five 911 calls about the Wyndham on 186th Street just this month. Two of the calls were for a “disorderly person refusing to leave.” The others were about a 34-year-old man “dizzy and vomiting,” a 50-year-old man with the same condition, and a 52-year-old woman who fell and hit her head, according to an NYPD spokeswoman.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the mayor’s decision to release 1,500 Rikers inmates for COVID-19 reasons has contributed to the Big Apple’s crime wave. Of those released, 13 percent were re-arrested including seven people for gun charges and one for a murder charge, according to City Hall data.
A mayoral spokesman has said that re-offense rate is similar to that for non-coronavirus releases.
Stavisky, who represents the Fresh Meadows community, rapped officials for placing inmates including ex-convicts from state prisons in the hotel “in the middle of the night.”
“You want to work with the community. You don’t come in the middle of the night and dump people there. It’s a mistake. It’s disrespectful.” She found out about the placement in June when neighbors saw people from the hotel panhandling.
Stavisky said the group that works with the ex-jailbirds, Exodus Transitional Services, has met with the local community board and is giving residents meals, MetroCards and job training.
“We’re not a reactionary community. But we have to work cooperatively,” she said, adding that she believes in “rehabilitation.”
The city signed a $835,000 contract with the group earlier this year, according to records. Exodus has given $50 gift cards to seven former inmates who participated in the “Rikers Island Public Memory Project to share their narrative of incarceration during COVID-19,” according to the group.
A City Hall spokeswoman said the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice is housing people at the Wyndham who were recently released from jail to provide safe shelter during the pandemic. She said the population has decreased to 80 residents.
“We have been in communication with local elected officials, and organized a tour of the facility on site to address any concerns. We’ve also had two additional community meeting between service providers who are providing programming and services on site, local elected officials, and community leaders. These conversations are ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.