NEW YORK - Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was time to start the process of moving homeless people out of hotels, who were placed there because of the coronavirus.
“We’re 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 at the time.
Some people on the Upper West Side think they have waited long enough.
“This is a tragic situation, but it's a tragedy of the city’s own making," said attorney Randy Mastro. "These are fundamental mistakes by our city government in how they executed this policy.”
Mastro represents a group of residents on the Upper West Side that formed a new nonprofit group.
The former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani sent a letter to the mayor this week demanding a timeline for moving people out. He demanded that timeline be given by Friday, or the group would sue.
“So we’re saying to the mayor, fine you have acknowledged that this is not the solution, that circumstances have changed and there should an immediate change to move this vulnerable population out of SRO hotels where they are not getting the services they need. Mayor tell us when you are going to do that," Mastro said. "Do it now!”
It’s another example of the fervor uptown over the use of hotels as homeless shelters. Thousands of homeless people were moved into these hotels at the beginning of the pandemic to protect them from the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Being in hotels allows homeless people to socially distance versus crowded, dorm-like shelters which do not.
“They moved people into the hotels and the data seems to show that that's working — that the infection rates are down for homeless New Yorkers," Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society said.
The Legal Aid Society is also now threatening a lawsuit if the city moves homeless people out the hotels before it's safe to do so.
“Because some nimby thugs are going to threaten to sue if that’s gong to cause the mayor to move people out where it's not safe to move people out then that’s something we are going to take action on," Goldiner said.
Right now, the city isn’t responding to either legal threat. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services said it is working with the Health Department to determine when it's safe to move people back to shelters.
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