Residents raising nearly $1M to fight de Blasio over homeless at Hotel Lucerne
A band of downtown Manhattan residents are raising nearly $1 million to fight Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to relocate homeless residents from an Upper West Side emergency hotel shelter to a permanent facility in their neighborhood, The Post has learned.
The newly formed non-profit group, Downtown New Yorkers Inc., has hired the high-profile international law firm Cozen O’Connor in preparation of filing an emergency injunction against the city to block the move.
“I think we have a really great strategy if we need it,” the group’s co-founder, Chris Brown, told The Post Thursday.
According to Brown, a Department of Homeless Services administrator notified residents during a Community Board 1 meeting last week that up to 240 homeless men from the temporary shelter at the Lucerne Hotel on W. 79th St. will soon be relocated to the Radisson Hotel at 52 William St. in the Financial District.
At the meeting, “there were lots of questions and very few answers,” said Brown.
The non-profit was formed in response to the matter and in just a few days gained 2,600 members in a private Facebook group where organizers wrote Wednesday: “We have been advised by the Cozen O’Connor group that [the] cost of this full operation will realistically land us between an estimated 500k-750k, or more, dependent largely on how long this litigation process may take,” according to a message obtained by The Post.
Brown explained, “All of us have compassion for homelessness and individuals who find themselves in that predicament, but we already have a large population within our district that needs help.”
Locals, he said, are worried about the impact that the shelter residents would have on the “tightly knit family neighborhood.”
“Our residents are concerned when their kids are out at recess, they are going to be harassed by these men that have mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions,” said Brown.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the de Blasio administration moved about 10,000 homeless people into Big Apple hotels, including nearly 300 homeless men — many of whom were struggling addicts — into the Hotel Lucerne in order to prevent the city’s overcrowded shelters from turning into COVID-19 hot spots.
The move had particularly sparked outrage and quality-of-life concerns amongst Upper West Side residents and their powerful attorney, Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration.
Last month, De Blasio ordered the transfer of the homeless men out of the emergency shelter at the Lucerne and they are slated to be moved into a permanent location in the “Wall Street-area” sometime in mid-October, city officials said.
“In the short-term, we are continuing to implement temporary emergency strategies using commercial hotel locations to stop the spread and save lives during the pandemic, and as part of that effort will utilize this location in Manhattan Community District 1 to protect and serve the men from the Lucerne,” the Department of Social Services, which oversees DHS, said in a statement.
The Dept. of Social Services said that “over the longer-term,” it will convert “this Wall Street-area location into a permanent ‘Turning the Tide’ shelter — the first of its kind in this Manhattan Community District, dedicated to serving adult families experiencing homelessness as they get back on their feet.”
That permanent shelter, which DSS confirmed will be located at 52 William St., “will offer adult families experiencing homelessness the opportunity to be sheltered in their home borough, closer to their support networks, including schools, jobs, healthcare, family, social services, and communities they called home,” the agency said.
Within Manhattan Community District 1, which encompasses Battery Park City, the Financial District and Tribeca, “there are currently no traditional shelters available to serve individuals from this community who may fall on hard times and experience homelessness,” DSS said.
The only existing shelter capacity in the community are commercial hotel locations, which currently serve nearly 300 homeless New Yorkers, and DSS says it has committed to phasing those out altogether.
It is not clear how long the city plans to keep the homeless men transferred from the Lucerne at the downtown shelter location.
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