Days after NY1 reported on conditions in Midtown surrounding hotels that had been converted to homeless shelters, the mayor says he is going to see it for himself.
"Of course, I am aware of it,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. "I want to be make really clear that I am concerned any time there might be a problem for the neighborhood.”
He added: "I am certainly going to look for myself as well.”
Earlier this year, to protect homeless people from the coronavirus, the city moved thousands of people staying in crowded homeless shelters to hotels. The highest concentration of those hotels is in Midtown.
Now, residents are raising concerns, claiming there is more narcotics use in the area. Some claim they have been subject to "aggressive physical and verbal behavior.”
On Monday, the mayor said it may be time to think about moving those people experiencing homelessness out of the hotels and back to shelters.
"As the situation, the health situation, has continued to improve, we are going to start the process of figuring out where we can get homeless individuals back into safe shelter facilities and reduce the reliance on hotels," de Blasio said. "Hotels is certainly not where we want to be in general, and we’re going to start that process immediately."
De Blasio did not give any timeline for the moves.
"We obviously had a problem, because we had a lot of people in close proximity as the coronavirus hit," the mayor said. "We are not going to allow that problem to occur again, but we do need to start the process of getting out of the hotels. We will have more to say on that as both the plans are more deeply developed, and we see what the health situation shows us."
Advocates do not want to see homeless New Yorkers moved back anytime soon. They argue putting people in crowded shelters again would be a health risk. Over the course of the pandemic, 104 homeless New Yorkers have died from the virus.
Moving people back, they say, could cost lives.
"Given everything we know about COVID and how it spreads and its impact on folks who are in congregate settings, we absolutely do not and should not be putting homeless folks at risk in congregate shelters," said Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless. "Congregate shelters, you will be sharing dorm rooms, bathrooms, dining areas in an enclosed indoor space, possibly without proper ventilation, and these are not the conditions that we need to help promote individual and public health."
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services told NY1 the city will inform communities when it is safe to move people out of the hotels, adding they do not plan on using them on an ongoing basis.