Protesters and a New York City council member have slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio over the city’s decision to backtrack and remove nearly 300 homeless people from a Manhattan hotel after residents complained and threatened a lawsuit.
Hundreds of homeless men have been temporarily living in the Lucerne hotel on the Upper West Side since July as part of de Blasio’s plan to stop the spread of COVID-19 in shelters across the city.
The upscale hotel is just one of a handful across the city that is currently sheltering homeless men and women as part of de Blasio’s plan.
The city, however, quietly reversed its decision this week and will now relocate the nearly 300 homeless men from the Lucerne into supportive housing.
The men will be transferred from the Lucerne by September 20.
A group of people in support of the homeless housing shelters gathered outside the Lucerne on Wednesday after it was revealed the city was going to relocate those inside
Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side in the New York City Council, on Wednesday slammed the move to remove nearly 300 homeless men from the Lucerne hotel following complaints from residents
It follows complaints and threats of a lawsuit from some residents who argued that the presence of the homeless was diminishing their quality of life in the Upper West Side neighborhood.
Protesters against plans to move homeless people out of the hotel gathered outside on Wednesday holding signs which read: ‘Tax the rich, house the poor’, ‘UWS is for everyone’ and ‘Love thy neighbor’.
Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side in the New York City Council, slammed the move during a press conference outside the Lucerne on Wednesday.
‘It’s a sad day when the mere threat of a lawsuit can get City Hall to reverse a decision it made,’ she said.
‘What message does this send that groups who can afford to hire high-powered lawyers are the ones who will get their way?’
Residents had complained that hotels being used as temporary shelters had brought increased violence, drug use, public urination and open prostitution to the area.
They said the presence of homeless people in the area had made the neighborhood unsafe and some claimed sex offenders had moved into the streets.
Upper West Side residents and supporters of UWS Open Hearts Initiative gather at a news conference in front of the Lucerne Hotel on Wednesday
Supporters carried signs that read ‘Upper West Side is for everyone’ and ‘All people belong in the Upper West Side’
Rosenthal acknowledged that the first few weeks were ‘difficult’ but argued that those problems no longer persisted.
‘I have walked this area night and day… it was as safe as can be,’ Rosenthal said, adding that she had noticed homeless people sleeping under scaffolding on the sidewalks.
‘If the mayor thinks his original decision was a mistake, he should just say so.
‘He has solved a problem that did not exist.’
A group of residents formed the West Side Community Organization and hired a lawyer to address their concerns.
The group has repeatedly criticized Rosenthal and accused her of refusing to acknowledge the issues.
They threatened to sue de Blasio and the city if the homeless people weren’t moved from the Lucerne and other nearby hotels.
The city wouldn’t comment on whether the decision to relocate was due to the backlash and complaints from residents.
A group of residents formed the West Side Community Organization and hired a lawyer to address their concerns following the influx of homeless to the neighborhood. The group has repeatedly criticized Rosenthal and accused her of refusing to acknowledge the issues
Residents had complained that hotels being used as temporary shelters had brought increased violence, drug use, public urination and open prostitution to the area
They said the presence of homeless people in the area had made the neighborhood unsafe and increased crime
A spokesman for the city Department of Social Services said the hotel shelters were only meant to be temporary.
‘We’re beginning to relocate individuals from several commercial hotel locations to alternative non-congregate shelter locations, where we can continue to implement social distancing and provide isolation,’ the spokesman said.
‘With more than 60 commercial hotel locations utilized to combat COVID and protect our clients from this virus over the past nearly six months, these actions will begin to reduce that footprint where we can.’
Randy Mastro, the former deputy mayor and lawyer representing the residents, hailed the decision to relocate the homeless.
‘We appreciate that the City – at our urging – will be immediately taking concrete steps to address the chaos that reached a crisis point over the past several weeks when the City relocated hundreds of homeless individuals into the Lucerne Hotel, many of whom suffered from mental illness, addiction and other serious problem,’ attorney Randy Mastro said in a statement.