What you need to know now about the Upper West Side Homeless Shelters Saga


A neighborhood conflict has been raging on the Upper West Side since early summer, when residents began complaining about homeless New Yorkers being temporarily housed in hotels in the area – including the Lucerne, Belnord and Belleclaire – to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the city’s crowded shelters.

A group of Upper West Siders has campaigned aggressively for the removal of their temporary neighbors. Through a new non-profit organization called the West Side Community Organization, they has raised more than $ 100,000 by (mostly) anonymous donors and has hired a senior staff member for the Giuliani administration, Randy Mastro, to threaten to sue the city. Meanwhile, others in the neighborhood have come together to support homeless residents through a group called the UWS Open Hearts Initiative, organizing donations, a sleep protest, and generally defending their right to stay in the neighborhood.

Here’s everything you need to know about the conflict and the latest developments.

How it all started:

In late April, the New York Department of Homelessness (DHS) began relocating thousands of homeless residents from the city-managed shelter system to 60 hotels across the boroughs to curb the spread of COVID -19. Some of these hotels include Lucerne, Belnord and Belleclaire on the Upper West Side, which come together around 700 individuals.

Soon after, some neighbors started making voices hostility, which included racist language and warnings of violence, on a Facebook group with 14,000 members called the Upper West Siders for Safer Streets, and New York Post took his cause to save the displaced from hotels. During an August 7 Community Council meeting, Dr. Megan Martin, who emerged as an unofficial spokesperson, cited “open and illegal drug use, needles on our playgrounds, aggressive manipulation and public masturbation ”as reasons why they should be kicked out.

Opposition lawyers have risen and threatened to sue.

Following its successful fundraising effort, the West Side Community Organization has joined former Giuliani staff, Randy Mastro, who threatened to sue the city if the Blasio administration did not provide a timetable for driving homeless residents out of the neighborhood. Mastro sent a letter to the city on Aug. 26 and said a lawsuit would follow if the Blasio administration did not respond with a plan within 48 hours.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that Lucerne residents will be transferred.

Nothing happened within two days after the letter was sent. But about two weeks later, on September 8, the Blasio administration announced that it intended to transfer about 300 residents without accommodation outside the Hotel Lucerne at the end of the month.

Corinne Low, a leader of the UWS Open Hearts Initiative, expressed outrage over the city’s decision at the time: “It was made based on pressure from a small segment of the Upper West Side, which raised money. and lawyer and obviously close to the city. in this, “he said. “This just sends a terrible message that people with money – their comfort matters, they win, the city’s policy will respond to them and not the needs of vulnerable individuals.”

Residents of abruptly displaced family shelters; the city accuses him of “glitch.”

After de Blasio’s announcement, the details of the plan became clear: Because it is not even dangerous to move Lucerne residents to shelters, they will instead be transferred to Harmonia, another Midtown hotel used as a shelter. temporarily homeless. About 150 adult families living in Harmonia (including some disabled people) will be forced to move out of the facility to accommodate Lucerne residents.

“My husband and I are in a wheelchair, okay?” And I’m on oxygen, ”she told Glenda Harris, a 56-year-old resident of East 31st Street Daily News on September 10th. “At the last minute, they tell us we need to leave.” Residents were given “Administrative Transfer Notices” with no transfer dates or locations on them.

Thirty-four residents were immediately relocated outside the Harmonia refuge. Some, including one 63-year-old woman wearing a walker, were transferred to North Star, a facility in Long Island City. The city later accused those transfers of a “glitch communication”, Said the lawyers of the Legal Aid Society. Glitches aside, advocates say moving residents of Lucerne will result in a “ripple effect” as 900 residents take refuge for the homeless (including children returning to school) in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. would be mixed around.

Defenders call the mayor, and the city pauses on transfers.

The same day the city began relocating some residents of Harmonia, the Legal Aid Society’s lawyers announced that they were preparing to proceed to the city because of their relocation plan. “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pathetic and short-sighted resignation from the Upper West Side NIMBYism has unsurprisingly disrupted the lives of other vulnerable New Yorkers in several shelters around New York, all amid a public health crisis,” he said. Judith Goldiner, a lawyer with Legal Aid, said in a statement. The organization said that if the city does not provide adequate accommodation for the families who are being transferred, they will have to file a temporary restraining order in the State Supreme Court.

Then, during the weekend, hundreds of advocates including the UWS Open Hearts Initiative gathered to protest outside Gracie Mansion (the mayor’s house) for hours, asking them to reverse their decision to transfer residents. On Monday, September 14, the Blasio administration said it would pause all actions to move homeless residents out of hotels. The Legal Aid Society said they will continue to negotiate with the city to ensure that “every New Yorker in refuge can be safe and sound and receive the housing they are entitled to as prescribed by law.” .

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