After weeks of neighborhood backlash, the 283 homeless individuals residing at The Lucerne will be relocated to alternate shelters by the end of the month.
A statement from attorney Randy Mastro, who is representing the West Side Community Organization, states that the city confirmed that “all of these individuals” will be moved “into state-accredited shelter facilities with the social services they need on-site.”
Mastro also states that “the City has further committed to cease using the Hotel Belleclaire for such housing in the next wave of closures after this one.”
This news comes after the newly formed organization had Mastro reach out to the Mayor’s office and, in late August, threaten to file a lawsuit if the city did not come up with a relocation plan.
Isaac McGinn, a spokesman for the Department of Social Services, stated that “As part of our effort to continually review and streamline the footprint of our shelter locations, while always ensuring effective provision of services, we’re beginning to relocate individuals from several commercial hotel locations.”
The city’s decision to relocate these homeless residents from The Lucerne has been met with mixed reactions.
In recent weeks, a number of residents have witnessed and documented incidents including open drug use, public urination and harassment, with the goal of bringing a declining quality of life to the attention of our local leadership. For them, and for anyone who has been concerned about their safety since the influx of new homeless residents on the Upper West Side, the announcement of the Lucerne residents’ relocation will be a positive.
But others have been critical of the city’s decision.
This includes Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who tweeted “It’s a sad day when the threat of lawsuit gets city hall to reverse a decision. What message does this send that groups who can afford to hire high-powered lawyers (are) the ones who will get their way.”
As of writing, the West Side Community Organization has raised over $135,000 through a GoFundMe campaign it launched in mid-August.
UWS Open Hearts, a recently formed group which has welcomed new residents with events including an art protest and sleep out at The Lucerne, tweeted “If the city is indeed making this decision based on pressure from the WSCO, it is an outrageous dereliction of the duty to protect vulnerable NYers. We’ll wait to hear what @NYCMayor has to say. The idea that services will in any way be better in another location is false.”
Another opponent of the recent decision is Dave Giffen, the Executive Director of The Coalition for the Homeless. Giffen stated that “Playing politics with the lives of people experiencing homelessness during a global pandemic is simply inexcusable and confirms that the suffering of homeless New Yorkers means less to Mayor de Blasio than the power of those who find it inconvenient. It is inhumane and just plain wrong, and the Mayor should be ashamed.”
But the conclusion of Mastro’s letter indicates that his work, and the work of the West Side Community Organization, has been designed to benefit all NYC residents (even though some would disagree). The sentiment behind this is the belief that the UWS hotels are not providing adequate services.
In a recent response letter from the Department of Homeless Services, the agency stated that while some services are offered onsite, others – including primary healthcare, health / mental health services and substance use treatment – are provided offsite, at locations outside of the hotels.
Mastro’s letter wraps up by stating that “All New Yorkers deserve to feel safe on the streets of their neighborhoods. But we as New Yorkers also care about our neighbors, particularly those in need. We are all in this together. So, we should all be concerned about what happened here and make sure it never happens again.”