Lucerne Hotel Shelter to Close Doors

The Lucerne Hotel will be closing its doors to the homeless men who have been residing at the 79th Street building since July 2020, a court ruled on Thursday. Patch was the first to report this update.

Three former Lucerne Hotel residents who’ve now secured separate housing accommodations had filed a petition to prevent the men who are still there from being relocated to the Radisson Hotel in the Financial District. But because these petitioners are no longer Lucerne residents, the judge presiding over the case dismissed their petition.

The City first decided to relocate the Lucerne residents during the fall of 2020. The move was supposed to take place by the end of September 2020, but it was soon put on pause as the men were originally set to move into the Harmonia on 32nd Street, which sparked protests since this would have led to the displacement of long-time residents of the Midtown building.

Towards the end of September, it was determined that the men would instead be transferred to the Radisson Hotel downtown.

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In January 2021, a court ruled that the Lucerne Hotel residents could determine whether they wanted to stay put or relocate to the Raddison.

A group called the West Side Community Organization (WestCo), represented by attorney Randy Mastro, had formed early on in an attempt to relocate the homeless individuals living at the Lucerne Hotel as well as Hotel Belleclaire on West 77th Street.

When Mayor de Blasio visited the Lucerne, he stated that conditions were unacceptable and agreed that the men should be relocated.

Both WestCo and the mayor also argued since the men who were filing the appeal had already moved out, the case should be dismissed, which it now has been.

Regarding the court’s most recent decision, WestCo General Counsel Melinda Thaler said “WestCo has always been concerned about the twin consequences of inadequate support to the MICA clients: jeopardy to their health and well being, and jeopardy to neighborhood safety. We are gratified that a fully-supported facility with on-site, wrap-around services will now be available to guide these men toward recovery.”

In a press release shared on Twitter, WestCo further stated the following:

“West Side Community Organization (WestCo) prevailed today in a nearly year-long court case, allowing the City to transfer hundreds of homeless drug-addicted and mentally ill men from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to a proper shelter with full services. The City, joined by WestCo in the appeal, argued that this vulnerable population would be better served at a shelter facility downtown (52 William Street) that offers the onsite medical and psychiatric supportive services, detox and drug testing, common space for recreation, jobs counseling and training that the Lucerne lacked.”

In the third paragraph of WestCo’s press release, the organization further stated that “The initial trial was heard in November 2020 by Judge Debra James, who ruled in favor of WestCo and the City’s position that the men, while guaranteed a right to shelter, were not entitled to demand the location of their choosing. She dismissed arguments made by three of the men residing at the hotel who sought to control the City’s decision-making as to where the homeless population should be housed. In today’s ruling, the Appellate Department held that because the three homeless men who resisted the City’s transfer had al transitioned to permanent housing, the men could not continue their challenge to the trial court’s holding that shelter client placement is in the sole discretion of the City, and the litigation must be dismissed.”

A tweet from UWS Open Hearts Initiative, which advocated for the homeless to stay at the Upper West Side hotels, expressed disappointment that the court did not side with the men who are still living at the Lucerne. OHI called the city’s decision-making “irrational and harmful,” amd commended the former Lucerne Hotel residents for “standing up to fight.”

While we are disappointed the court did not consider the merits of the case and the irrational and harmful nature of the city’s decision-making, we also think it’s important to look back on *how much was won* because @homeless_hero and 2 others stood up to fight. They stopped the displacement of the men at the Lucerne based on the whims of a few wealthy and powerful NIMBYs. They preserved jobs, ensured people were moved into permanent housing, and won better services. The city has now announced an imminent move back to congregate shelters. It would be beyond irrational for the city to displace people to the Radisson now, only to move them again a few weeks later, and thus we expect the <100 people left at the Lucerne to remain there, pending the move back to their permanent shelter. But, we also want to appeal to the city to use EVERY tool at their disposal to get people into permanent housing. Men at the Lucerne are taking remote classes, and doing work-from-home jobs. They are utilizing on-site services; Drug and alcohol use has substantially dropped vs the congregate setting. To force them back to shelters where they would lose all this progress would be cruel. The city has choices: They can use emergency section 8 vouchers and a fast-track of Intro 146 to get people into HOUSING, saving the city money AND doing the right thing. We hope they will.”

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