What to Know
- Plans to move homeless residents staying at an Upper West Side hotel to another location have been put on hold -- at least for now.
- Shelter residents who have been housed at a New York City hotel due to the pandemic were expected to be moved to another hotel as soon as Monday -- this as neighborhood groups against the move take the fight to court.
- Initially, more than 200 men living at the Lucerne hotel were told they would have to move Monday for another shelter in the Financial District. However, the plan came to a halt, at least for now, due to a court order. At least two ongoing lawsuits may stand in the way of the plan to move the homeless residents.
Plans to move homeless residents staying at an Upper West Side hotel to another location have been put on hold -- at least for now.
Shelter residents who have been housed at a New York City hotel due to the pandemic were expected to be moved to another hotel as soon as Monday -- this as neighborhood groups against the move take the fight to court.
Initially, more than 200 men living at the Lucerne hotel were told they would have to move Monday for another shelter in the Financial District. However, the plan came to a halt, at least for now, due to a court order. At least two ongoing lawsuits may stand in the way of the plan to move the homeless residents.
Local leaders and homeless advocates gathered in front of the Lucerne Hotel Monday morning to speak out against moving unhoused individuals who have been placed in the Upper West Side neighborhood since July.
"I say to our neighbors on the Upper West Side, as New Yorkers we have a shared responsibility to welcome people experiencing homelessness into our communities," advocate Melissa Sanchez said during the gathering.
Advocates with the UWS Open Hearts have been fighting the past few months against moving shelter residents, citing health concerns amid the COVID-19 as well as depriving residents, many of whom are men of color dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems, of much-needed services and a supportive community. The New York Post reported Sunday that three Lucerne residents have filed a lawsuit to stop the movie, citing possible "massive psychological damage."
NBC New York has reached out to the city for comment and further details.
One shelter resident who identified himself only as Emmanuel told NBC New York Monday that he personally thinks the Upper West Side is a good area and he hasn't seen a lot of trouble. But he says some residents do want to move to a bigger space.
"A lot of people are working. Me, I'm working. I'm doing construction. I don't really see why we should move, but if we do move, I don't see a problem either," Emmanuel said.
The city's Department of Homeless Services had previously halted plans to move the residents but last month confirmed that they will be moved to another building in the wealthy Financial District that's to be converted to the first-ever traditional shelter in the area. The plan received immediate criticism from a neighborhood group and last week, Downtown New Yorkers Inc. filed a lawsuit against the city to stop over 200 shelter residents from moving into the Radisson hotel at 52 William Street.
"When we are told to move like this, there is a psychological thing that happens to us because we don't have any control over the decisions made on our behalf," a Lucerne resident said during the protest Monday outside the Upper West Side hotel. "And in this case, the fact that we are going to a place where there is another group that is saying they don't want us there, before we even got there, that's traumatizing in and of itself."
During his coronavirus press briefing Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the matter saying that "by opening up a facility that will be a shelter, an actual shelter, with full services, we're going to be able to accomodate folks coming out of the Lucerne and we can accomodate others as well. We are going to use the fact that we have a new and better facility to help homeless people. And then, overall, as we continue to make progress on the [coronavirus] and as we continue to have more space in our shelter system overall we are going to be looking to move out of hotels that we're paying for by the day and get into shelters. That's always been the vision."
The downtown neighborhood group's complaints are the same as the complaints of another UWS neighborhood group who wanted unhoused individuals to move out of the upscale neighborhood. Christopher Brown, the group's COO of Petitioner, said in the affidavit that he has observed "an increase in adult homeless men gathering in or around the outdoor plaza located outside of my building" and seen men engaging in drug use in public since another hotel in the neighborhood was converted to a temporary shelter over the summer.
"Given the lack of planning, community engagement and the arbitrary nature
of the decision, I am concerned about my safety and security, and that of my neighbors, given my experiences with the homeless population after the initial move of adult men into the Hilton at 6 Water, and in light of the widely reported difficulty the Upper West Side community had when these men initially moved into the Lucerne Hotel," Brown said.
It's not the first time the city is facing a lawsuit over shelter residents. In August, a group of Upper West Siders threatened to sue the city if it doesn't move Renewal shelter residents out of the Lucerne. Shortly after, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his decision to move the shelter, and homeless advocates like UWS Open Hearts say the mayor caving in to wealthy NIMBYs has emboldened others like the downtown group.
Corrinne Low of the UWS Open Hearts has said de Blasio's move to displace shelter residents is a form of segregation and that it will slow the path to racial justice and equality.
"Neighborhoods are resources: Neighborhoods are jobs, are community support, are networks, are engines of economic opportunity. And when you exclude a group of people from neighborhoods to keep it for yourself and people who look like you, you ensure resources stay in the hands of the powerful," Low said last month in reaction to the move.