Lower Manhattanites appealing court ruling to prevent transfer of Lucerne residents

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Neighbors of the Lucerne Hotel and from Vocal New York showed their support for the homeless living at the Lucerne despite the mayor seeking to move them to another hotel in downtown Manhattan. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Manhattanites are playing hot potato with the homeless residents of the Lucerne Hotel with a Financial District coalition filing litigation in appellate court to cancel the displacement of over 230 individuals from the Lucerne Hotel in the Upper West Side to the Radisson at 52 William St.

A 53-page emergency action to stop the relocation by the city Department of Homeless Services was filed by Downtown New Yorkers, who believe City Hall has been dishonest in their dealings with Manhattan Community Board 1 and are arguing that switch up would negatively impact the lives of Lucerne Hotel residents.

“In addition to rebutting the Supreme Court’s standing error, the motion establishes that Downtown New Yorkers is likely to succeed on the merits and that the Lower Manhattan community will be irreparably harmed if the City is able to disrupt a stable situation at the Lucerne and move the men to the Radisson for improper purposes,” a release from the group said.

This is not first time the city has been sued by community groups opposed to the use of hotels to relieve congestion in congregate shelters for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer, West Side Community Organization led by attorney Randy Mastro was able to twist the de Blasio administration’s arm into a decision of relocating the men taking cover in the upper crust section of Manhattan, mostly based on quality of life complaints.

The city soon announced a decision to remove the residents to a downtown location, but the other shoe has yet to drop. Friction in the Upper West Side continued and eventually led to Mastro’s own residence being vandalized.

The Downtown New Yorkers’ legal action comes a week after New York Supreme Court Judge Debra James ruled on Nov. 25 in favor of the city in stating that they had the right to move forward with the relocation which was scheduled to take place sometime after Thanksgiving.

“The City has behaved horribly from the very start of this situation, playing with people’s lives for political expediency and lying to Community Board 1 by claiming there is not a permanent shelter in the district when there is,” Downtown New Yorkers member Theresa Vitug said in a statement. “We will continue to fight this issue and we demand that the Department of Homeless Services engages with the community in good faith.”

Manhattan’s CB1 one did not respond to a request for comment.

The Raddison’s proximity to four different schools – a perennial argument used against sheltering of homeless residents by community members over the years (see here, here and here) – as well as citing the psychiatric and substance abuse by the DHS clients was another reason for opposition to their relocation framed by the potential it would destabilize their recovery.

The residents themselves at the hotel have spoken out against being moved by the city in several rallies as they have come to rely on services in the neighborhood such as nearby primary care doctors as well as employment in the area.