Just 13 days after a group of Upper West Siders threatened to sue the city over the use of three neighborhood hotels as temporary homeless shelters, the de Blasio administration announced that it’s planning to transfer the 300 unhoused residents out of the Lucerne Hotel, the New York Times first reported. They’ll be out by the end of the month.
For weeks, the group (who recently formed a nonprofit called West Side Community Organization) have aggressively campaigned for the removal of temporary homeless residents who were placed in neighborhood hotels earlier this summer to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in often-crowded city shelters. Since the unhoused individuals were moved into the Lucerne, Belnord, and Belleclaire hotels, some residents say they’ve witnessed “open and illicit drug use, needles on our playgrounds, aggressive panhandling, and public masturbation,” according to Dr. Megan Martin, one of the group’s leaders. Aggressive rhetoric, like calling the situation “a zombie apocalypse,” has led to conflict with others in the neighborhood who support, or at least accept, the shelters.
“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,” Randy Mastro, the lawyer representing the NIMBY group (and former Deputy Mayor in the Giuliani administration), said in a statement.
Corinne Low, a leader of UWS Open Hearts Initiative that supports the homeless residents, expressed her outrage over the city’s decision: “It’s been done based on pressure from a small segment of the Upper West Side, who raised money and lawyered up and obviously pressured the city into this,” she said. “That just sends a terrible message that the people with money: Their comfort matters, they win, city policy is going to cater to them, and not the needs of vulnerable individuals.”
The Department of Homeless Services confirmed that the residents of the Lucerne (along with residents of a Queens hotel) would be moved by the end of September, to another comparable living arrangement rather than a congregate shelter. The thousands of unhoused New Yorkers who have been living in more than 60 hotels elsewhere in the city since earlier in the summer are not affected by the Mayor’s new plan.