Earlier this spring, the city moved thousands of people experiencing homelessness from crowded shelters to hotels to protect them from the coronavirus. In some neighborhoods, that created a lot of controversy — especially on the Upper West Side. This week, the mayor decided he would move some men out of the neighborhood. Then the backlash ensued.
“Heart wrenching” is how one one resident at the Lucerne Hotel put it.
Ramon Nin has been staying at an Upper West Side hotel-turned-shelter for a few months. He’s one of the men who found out they were moving from the news.
“It's sad because moving us is not going to hide the problem of homelessness,” Nin told us on Wednesday. "That’s the rope breaking where it’s the thinnest."
He is one of several hundred homeless men that will have to pack their bags and move out of the hotel on the Upper West Side. Late Tuesday night, the city announced it would move out of two hotels being used to house homeless people — the most controversial is the Lucerne on 79th Street. The mayor made the decision after he visited the neighborhood last week.
“I went and saw it for myself on the Upper West Side last week and what I saw was not acceptable, and had to be addressed, because the idea is to always balance the need for homeless folks and the need for community,” the mayor said.
For weeks, residents have complained about a decrease in quality of life in their neighborhood — claiming homeless men were doing drugs or even defecating in the street. Some residents threatened to sue. And they hired a high powered attorney — a former Giuliani administration official who is now praising the current mayor for his decision.
“This is a huge step forward,” Randy Mastro told NY1. "To the mayor’s credit, he heard the community’s concerns and he has now taken action to address them."
Meanwhile, in front of the Lucerne on Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters blasted the mayor’s decision.
"Shame on him,” said the local Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal.
The public advocate joined the chorus.
“Dont pretend homeless people don’t have feelings, don’t have families, don’t want to work,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams yelled. "They are not chess or checkers pieces on a board. How dare you treat them like that!”
Men from the Lucerne will be moved almost 50 blocks south to a family shelter on 31st Street. The city says they will still be able to socially distance there. The families there now will also have to be relocated.
They got transfer notices hours before we visited on Wednesday. Some had no idea they were also going to have to pack their bags.
Tiffanie Mondello has been staying at a shelter for years. We were the one breaking the news to her she would have to move.
“All because people don’t want them in their neighborhood. That’s ridiculous,” she told us. "That’s ridiculous. I understand some shelters can cause problems in some areas. We’re in Midtown. They don’t want us here either. Nobody wants homeless people anywhere."