Community Board 7 will be hosting a Zoom session about the use of Upper West Side hotels as temporary homeless shelters on Monday, August 24 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Those interested in attending can pre-register here.
CB7 states that “Due to the anticipated large audience expected for this session, it will not be possible to hear questions and comments in a town hall-type setting directly from community speakers.” They suggest submitting any questions or concerns in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will also be able to use Zoom’s “chat” function during the meeting.
Reactions to the influx of new UWS hotel residents have been mixed. Some have organized events to welcome the new residents by bringing them baked goods and hosting sidewalk chalk events. There was a second sidewalk chalk event this past weekend.
Others have also taken the stance that the situation is not as bad as many claim it is.
For a positive perspective on the #UWS: lots of people out & about, walking dogs, eating out, kids getting ice cream & riding bikes, people shopping & just generally enjoying themselves. All photos taken within blocks of (and sometimes right next to) the three hotel shelters. pic.twitter.com/i1NLAjcQxc
— Sara Lind (@saraklind) August 8, 2020
Simon Oren, the owner of Nice Matin (located at The Lucerne), told the NY Times that it’s only the perception of danger which has impacted his business.
“There was so much talk about here are 300 sex offenders who are going to attack you while you’re seated, so they’re not showing up,’’ adding that “so far we did not have even one situation with homeless from the hotel.”
In the same article, clinical social worker Amanda Fialk told the Times “To the best of my knowledge being homeless is not a crime, but we’re treating these people like criminals.”
There has been a lot of criticism towards Upper West Siders who’ve been hesitant to welcome our new neighbors with open arms. Plenty have accused these residents of classism, racism, and NIMBYism.
Concerns ContinueMany Upper West Siders grew concerned when the New York state sex offender registry recently listed a Level 3 sex offender as a resident of the Lucerne Hotel, especially as the offender’s listed victims were 7 and 8 year old girls, and the Lucerne is located within 1,000 feet of a school.
When we reached out to the office of Helen Rosenthal about this, they told us:
“His address was listed there in error and the City’s Dept of Homeless Services is working with the state to correct the registry.”
Edwin Morales is a client of Project Renewal and stayed at one of their other shelters in the past. He became street homeless and went to the Lucerne seeking shelter, but Project Renewal did not accept him into the Lucerne.
We have received this information from Project Renewal.”
As of writing, the offender’s registered address is now 600 East 125th Street.
We also spoke with a local business owner who’s grown anxious about the situation.
Helen Kim grew up in NYC and has lived on the UWS for many years. Her business on 72nd Street, a holistic PT practice specializing in women’s health, just reopened. She’s excited to have her doors open for business again, but is dismayed at what is happening on the city streets, including a recent experience that left her shaken.
Helen was recently shopping at a CVS when a man came in and began yelling and intimidating the people in the store. She feared the worst and realized in that moment that she, the other customers and staff would not be able to overpower the man if he became violent. Thankfully he left the store without harming anyone. This event left her worried that the next encounter may end differently.
Similar concerns have catalyzed the reemergence of the Guardian Angels, who’ve recently begun patrolling the streets with founder Curtis Sliwa.
“I’m Asian American. I have a solo practice. I’m an immigrant, like my parents are immigrants. On the UWS we have residents of all backgrounds, and of all nationalities. And we are definitely not racist or an elitist group of people, we want to see people get the help they need,” Helen said.
She noted that as a New Yorker, she’s used to seeing homeless people around, but stressed that what she’s seeing now is not what the city has seen in past decades and is concerned for what the future will look like.
Helen is one of the 10,000 plus members of the Facebook group Upper West Siders for Safer Streets. She hopes to shed light on the fact that this group is diverse and made up of people who come from all backgrounds.
Recent Statements & ActionsEarlier in the week, Mayor de Blasio said that he would be moving the homeless men out of the hotels and back into shelters as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. He also called on the city agencies including DHS and the NYPD to help address local concerns.
Although DeBlasio made a statement that he will move the homeless out of the hotels, some UWS residents do not want to wait to watch what they call a bad situation get worse, and have launched a new group called The West Side Community Organization. The mission of the group reads:
“West Side Community Organization’s mission is to advance safer and more compassionate policies regarding New Yorkers who are struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction. Our grassroots organization will promote adequate services for those in critical need, help improve the quality of life for residents, and foster a healthy environment for small businesses to thrive. Our advocacy group includes families, seniors, singles, professionals, and hard-working service providers – all volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and affiliations who have united to keep our Upper West Side neighborhood safe and protect our quality of life.”
The group has hired a high profile lawyer to bring their concerns to City Hall. The New York Post reported that the lawyer, Randy Mastro, a former federal prosecutor, is calling on Mayor de Blasio to address the concerns of the UWS residents sooner than later or they will take him to court. The website also has a link to donate to their efforts, which as of Wednesday night has already raised over $31,000.
“In the guise of addressing a problem, it has created far greater problems that are proving devastating to this neighborhood and endangering residents and homeless alike,” Mastro told The Post. “We are calling on the de Blasio administration to clear up this mess of its own making.”
In an NYC moms group, one woman announced that she’ll be hosting Zoom Narcan trainings for anyone who is interested in learning how to save the lives of those who have overdosed. The organizer emailed us this link with more information about Narcan training and how having naloxone on hand can save lives. Many supporters believe that those who are suffering from drug addiction should have support and not be shunned by the community.
While the dispute has heated up, it is clear that there is still a divide on how the situation should be handled.