City Hall plans to pull the homeless from a hotly criticized Upper West Side emergency hotel shelter before the end of the month, officials confirmed Tuesday, ending a weeks-long political brawl that consumed the neighborhood.
The Department of Homeless Services said it will transfer the nearly 300 residents currently staying at the Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street at Amsterdam Avenue to other facilities by the end of the next weekend.
We’ve always been clear that these were temporary arrangements and that our first priority is ensuring people experiencing homelessness are getting the services they need,” said Avery Cohen, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Hizzoner told reporters during a daily press briefing in August that his administration was beginning to look for ways to wind down the controversial shelter program, but provided no timeline.
A lawyer representing one UWS neighborhood group opposed to the shelters, Randy Mastro, also said that city officials had agreed to close down a second shelter at the Hotel Bellecaire — a claim that City Hall denied.
Officials dramatically expanded their use of hotels to provide emergency shelter space for New York’s least fortunate during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as the usual congregate shelters lacked the needed space for social distancing.
Before the pandemic, there were roughly 3,500 homeless people placed in hotels — a figure that quadrupled to more than 13,000 as the coronavirus ravaged the Big Apple.
However, some neighborhoods fiercely pushed back against the use of hotel facilities, none more so than the Upper West Side where residents mounted a furious campaign after the Lucerne and two other hotels were converted into shelter space.
They complained that the new residents — particularly the recovering addicts moved to the Lucerne — harmed the quality of life in the neighborhood. They told reporters the men accosted pedestrians, that they saw them use drugs, and, sometimes, even pass out from apparent overdoses.
And they hired Mastro, a high profile attorney and former top aide to then-Mayor Rudy Guiliani, to make their case.
“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 when the City relocated hundreds of homeless individuals into the Lucerne Hotel, many of whom suffered from mental illness, addiction and other serious problems,” said a lawyer for one group of neighbors, Randy Mastro.
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