Homeless advocates outraged after judge orders Lucerne Hotel residents moved from Upper West Side

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Upper West Side residents are split about having the homeless living in their community as many were settled into local hotels including the Lucerne.
File photo/Todd Maisel

Right before Thanksgiving, a judge declared that the city had every right to move some 200 homeless men from the Upper West Side’s Lucerne Hotel to a Radisson Hotel in the Financial District.

The ruling by New York Supreme Court Judge Debra James on Nov. 25 was a defeat to some of the Lucerne’s residents who fought the city’s relocation plan. The city’s Law Department indicated its support of the judge’s decision in a statement.

It’s believed the relocation from the Lucerne, at 201 West 79th St., will take place sometime after Thanksgiving, according to The New York Times.

The city decided back in September to remove the 200 homeless men from the Lucerne amid a cacophony of complaints from Upper West Siders. Opponents blasted the city for turning the Lucerne into a makeshift shelter, claiming that it was inadequate to support the needs of the residents, many of whom were said to suffer from addiction and mental health issues.

Not all Upper West Siders agreed. Other neighborhood residents rallied to support the Lucerne’s residents, claiming that the opponents were merely acting out of NIMBYism. After the city announced its intent to relocate the Lucerne’s residents, a number of the men banded together on the lawsuit which sought to stop the city from moving forward.

One of the residents, Shams (aka “The Homeless Hero”) had mixed reactions to the judge’s ruling in a statement posted on the Facebook group, UWS Open Hearts.

“We are hurt. This decision negatively affects homeless people throughout America and that’s really what this fight was about: having our voices heard, challenging an irrational decision made by the Mayor to please some rich folk,” Shams said. “But the fact that we got this far in the conversation and exposed the City for the inhumanity it has not just towards homeless individuals but towards all Black and Brown people is a huge win.”

Representatives of other homeless advocacy groups agreed.

“The costly process and legal battle at the heart of the Lucerne story are both the wrong conversation and the wrong use of city funding, at a time when COVID-19 continues to present a significant threat to the health and lives of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and has rendered hundreds of thousands across our city in rent arrears and on the brink of homelessness,” said Áine Duggan, president and CEO of The Partnership for the Homeless. “The only time the city should be engaged in moving people out of shelter is when they are moving people into a permanent home.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called the judge’s Wednesday ruling a “demoralizing decision with dehumanizing consequences.” He made a direct appeal to Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the move.

“I implore the Mayor to halt this action and abandon this attempt to placate a few privileged individuals by displacing homeless New Yorkers in need,” Williams said. “Relocating homeless populations does nothing to address the homelessness crisis, it only makes it harder to see, and benefits people who would prefer to turn a blind eye. To continue to carry out this eviction would be unconscionable, but also unsurprising from an administration that promised to address the tale of two cities but has repeatedly made decisions to exacerbate it.”

But the legal battle appears to be far from over, according to the coalition Downtown New Yorkers, which is fighting the Lucerne residents’ relocation to the Lower Manhattan Radisson Hotel at 52 William St.

“Downtown New Yorkers is deeply disappointed with the judge’s decision and we will immediately file an appeal,” the organization said in a statement. “We intend to continue this fight and we expect to win the case on the merits.”

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