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Upper West Side Hotel Will Continue to House the Homeless

Upper West Side, Manhattan

COVID-19, homeless residents, hotels, Upper West Side, co-ops and condos.

The Lucerne hotel on the Upper West Side has been housing homeless people (image via Google Maps).

Sept. 15, 2020

In a reversal of his earlier reversal, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stood up to a vocal group of Upper West Side residents – many of them living in high end co-ops and condominiums – and announced that he is backing away from his abrupt decision last week to shut down an Upper West Side hotel housing homeless men and a second hotel for homeless women in Long Island City, Gothamist reports.

The mayor’s abrupt plan to close the hotels had followed a weeks-long pressure campaign from a group calling itself Upper West Siders for Safer Streets, which has a 14,000-member Facebook page. During the coronavirus pandemic, the city moved some 10,000 residents of homeless shelters into hotels around the city to relieve crowding and reduce the potential to spread the virus. Four of those hotels are located on the Upper West Side: Belleclaire, the Park West, the Belnord and the Lucerne. It was the last of these, located at 201 W. 79th St., that de Blasio ordered closed last week – before his latest announcement that its 350 homeless residents will stay put for the time being.

Angry Upper West Siders raised more than $100,000 and threatened to sue the city if de Blasio does not move homeless New Yorkers out of neighborhood hotels. The Legal Aid Society countered by threatening to sue the city if it transfers people back into crowded, dorm-style shelters before it is safe to do so.

Critics of the mayor’s choice to suddenly close the Lucerne and the hotel in Long Island City saw it as a knee-jerk reaction to a vocal group of politically connected Upper West Siders. “It has to be more than you get a call from one lawyer and then make these changes that have this devastating ripple effect across the city,” said Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side. She and other community members had raised $270,000 to work with the local nonprofit Goddard Riverside to provide meals and additional services to residents of the Lucerne in an effort to address some of the quality-of-life complaints Upper West Side residents had. “Fundamentally,” Rosenthal asked, “what is the city's homeless policy now?”

Another question: How do you spell NIMBY? On the Upper West Side, it’s spelled L-u-c-e-r-n-e.

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