Adolfo's Hot Sheet Motels

In the late 1990’s, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani came to the northeast Bronx for a town hall meeting. At the meeting, he was met with complaints about the number one menace affecting the community: “hot sheet” motels.

For the uninitiated, “hot sheet” motels are short-term establishments, known for their low hourly rates and the forgiving eyes of the staff. Dozens of “hot sheet” motels make their home in The Bronx, and they are well-known havens for prostitution, drug sale and use, and other nefarious activities.

The bulk of the “hot sheet” motels in The Bronx are located in the northeast Bronx. At that town hall meeting, local residents demanded that Giuliani do something to clean up their community and, at least, prevent the opening of future “hot sheets,” if not close the existing establishments. Before leaving the meeting, Giuliani promised those in attendance that he would make something happen.

a typical, recently used room of a Bronx hot sheet motel

In 2000, the mayor delivered. He put forward a new zoning plan that severely limited the types of establishments that could be built in Bronx Community Board #12, the local planning board that covers the communities of the Northeast Bronx. While the zoning plan could not do anything about the “hot sheets” already operating, the new plan would have essentially prevented future “hot sheets” from being constructed.

The plan was met with widespread approval, and the community board was expected to support it. Along came a never before heard from “merchants organization” to protest the plan. The group was represented by attorney Linda Baldwin, wife of then-City Councilman Adolfo Carrion Jr. In November 2000, in front of the community board, Baldwin argued that the plan needed to be defeated for a variety of questionable reasons. Those arguments included charges that merchants’ buildings would deteriorate because they would not be able to repair them or put new facade or build toilets, arguments that supporters of the plan called “baloney.” Note that Baldwin was law partner with the politically connected Roberto Ramirez law firm.

In the end, the community board was persuaded by Baldwin, and voted the plan down. Shortly thereafter, Carrion became the recipient of significant campaign contributions from interests owning major property in the Northeast Bronx, interests that had been represented by Baldwin in the zoning fight.

Many observers were critical of these contributions, and wondered aloud if Carrion had used his City Council seat to raise money while at the same time sell out The Bronx. Though he won his race for Bronx Borough President, Carrion still faced significant pressure from observers to do something about the “hot sheet” menace, to which he was now forever linked.

To that end, Carrion announced the creation of a “hot sheet” motel task force, one that would work to close every such establishment in The Bronx.

In 2002, Carrion’s task force was instrumental in the closure of one such motel, which has since been converted to a Howard Johnson, though that establishment has also been revealed to have offered hourly rates in the past.

In 2002, to much fanfare, Borough President Adolfo Carrion led a 'raid' that closed the Alps Motel. Carrion and his wife, a politically connected attorney, had been criticized for being enablers for the growth of the hot sheet motel business in the north Bronx, and he sought to shake off these connections with 'bold' action. Our investigation in March 2008 found that the motel is back in business - renting beds by the hour.

In 2003, Carrion jointly closed two such motels in the Northeast Bronx on a Friday evening. By Monday, the courts had ordered both establishments be reopened, and both are operating today as “hot sheet” motels.

In his 2004 “State of the Borough” speech, Carrion let it be known that eliminating “hot sheet” motels would remain a major focus of his administration, despite having made no public moves against those establishments since 2003.

“We are not kidding…we will shut them down,” said Carrion during that speech, adding that the audience should “stay tuned.”

Since that time Carrion’s task force has been inactive, no other “hot sheets” have been closed and the issue has entirely disappeared from Carrion’s radar. In fact, Carrion no longer even mentions the issue in his speeches and public appearances.

And as recently as June 2008, Carrion accepted more campaign contributions from those aforementioned “hot sheet” motel interests.