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Upper West Siders Want 'Hellhole' Hotel Shuttered After String of Crimes

By Emily Frost | March 29, 2016 4:38pm
 Residents pointed to a recent armed robbery at the Rodeway Inn on March 16, when this photo was taken, as evidence the hotel should be shut down.
Residents pointed to a recent armed robbery at the Rodeway Inn on March 16, when this photo was taken, as evidence the hotel should be shut down.
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DNAinfo/Ellen Moynihan

UPPER WEST SIDE — Local residents are demanding the closure of a neighborhood hotel that's been the site of a series of violent crimes in the past year — including a homicide, rape and armed robbery — but the NYPD said it's not within its power to shut the lodge down.

Police should immediately close down the budget Rodeway Inn at 31 W. 71st St. due to criminal activity, including the most recent incident last month when robbers pistol-whipped hotel employees during an attempted heist, locals said at a 20th Precinct meeting Monday. 

In that incident, on March 16, three masked men tied up hotel employees and pistol-whipped them in an attempt to break into the hotel's safe, witnesses and police said. The suspects, who made off with three staffers' wallets and phones, were still at large as of Monday night, said the precinct's new commanding officer, Capt. Levon Holley.

Earlier incidents over the past 10 months also raised concerns among neighbors.

On June 9, 2015, 41-year-old Paul Dawson was found dead in one of the hotel's rooms covered in plastic wrap after using the online service rentboy.com to hire two male prostitutes, Holley said.  

"During the course of narcotics usage and some sort of S&M, he passed away," he said. 

The prostitutes called the hotel's assistant manager and reported the death, which was later classified as a homicide, but no arrests have been made, police said. 

Then, on Dec. 30, 2015, the same assistant manager kidnapped and raped a woman he had arranged to meet at the hotel through an online forum, according to Holley and court documents. 

Inside a room at the hotel, Farhan Khan, 27, tied the woman up, held a knife to her throat and told her "today is the day you're going to die," documents showed.

While holding the knife, and at other times a hammer, Khan raped the woman several times and forced her to perform sex acts, the documents added.

Khan, who is being held at the Brooklyn Detention Complex, was indicted on five counts of predatory sexual assault and one count of second degree kidnapping, court documents said. 

He was previously convicted of a misdemeanor for selling drugs, documents showed, but it was not clear whether he served any prison time for the conviction. 

His lawyer did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

While the incidents are "alarming," they're also "isolated," said Holley, who added that there's no connection between the trio of "unfortunate" occurrences.

Residents described seeing people blatantly smoking marijuana in front of the hotel and coming and going at all hours of the night on the otherwise quiet block. 

"It’s a magnet for a serious criminal zone. We’re all being put at risk for a real serious tragedy to take place," said a resident who attended the meeting and said he lived on the block.

"We as police can’t just say, 'You have three incidents at this place, you should shut down,'" Holley replied.

Unlike revoking a bar or restaurant's liquor license when it sells alcohol to minors or breaks other laws, police cannot revoke a hotel license due to unrelated crimes that occurred there, he explained. 

Residents demanded more police presence on the block and outside the hotel.

"I think the thing to do is involve the [district attorney]. See if any organized, repetitive and enduring criminal activity is going on or if it is simply a junkie or desperado target," said Michael Scully, a West 71st Street resident, in an email.

"We can’t just shut down a business if it has been victimized, but, if it is a hellhole, out with them," he added.

Holley, who is two weeks into his new post as the precinct's top officer, said he reviewed the 20th Precinct's statistics for the area, finding that officers handed out more than 1,000 traffic summonses in front of or near the hotel last year.

There's already an NYPD presence on the block and near the hotel, Holley added, promising to step patrols up even further.

However, the public's help is crucial, he said.

Holley advised residents to surreptitiously snap photos of anyone engaged in criminal activity so they could show them to police and make identifications easier. Passersby should also call 911 any time they see suspicious activity, he said. 

"If it’s a problem for you, it’s a problem for me. We work for you," Holley said. "[Monitoring the hotel] is definitely a priority."

Choice Hotels, which owns the Rodeway Inn, did not respond to a request for comment.

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