Rally urges city to leave Upper West Side shelter residents alone, not ‘shuffled around like cattle’

Larry Thomas, a homeless resident of the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side, speaks during a press conference outside the establishment on Sept. 27, 2020. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Upper West Siders and elected officials rallied on Sunday in opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to move over 200 residents from private quarters at the Lucerne Hotel to other locations across the city.

While the mayor is sticking to his plan to remove the men and women from the Lucerne within the next week protestors at a press conference Sunday said the removal was the result of a lack of housing policy and NIMBYism.

Larry Thomas, a resident of the Lucerne, said he’s looking for housing, but he and others have been “shuffled around like cattle.”

“It ain’t a solution to just keep shuffling people around. The solution is to get the people that are ready to leave out so you can have room for the people who still need services,” Thomas said. “I appreciate the staff here because they helped. They never gave up on me.”

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal called on de Blasio to go to the Lucerne Hotel and the other shelter locations to meet with the residents before uprooting their lives and possibly sending them to another hotel for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic at 52 Williams St.

“Having them move back to their congregate shelter [after being moved to another hotel] is the definition of instability,” Rosenthal said. “The [mayor] needs some guiding principals and then stick with those guiding principals because otherwise, a high-priced, well-connected lawyer like Randy Mastro can come along and set a precedent for what will now happen in every other community if you let this decision stand.”

Mastro was hired by West Side Community Organization, a group of Upper West Side residents concerned by quality of life issues in the neighborhood after the city Department of Homeless Services moved homeless men and women from congregate shelters where COVID-19 ran wild.

“From the beginning, I understood and believed the City Administration would do the right thing and move this vulnerable population out of the Lucerne Hotel and into a proper shelter where they will receive the services they need,” attorney for WestCo Randy Mastro said on Friday. “And today, the City Administration has done just that, confirming it will be moving folks out of this SRO hotel and into a proper shelter over the next 10 days in close proximity to the services they need and deserve. This is a win-win for all parties and something everyone who truly cares about the homeless should be supporting.”

City Comptroller Scott Stringer addresses the crowd on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a 2021 mayoral candidate, went as far as to suggest the human rights of the homeless men and women was being violated by the actions of the de Blasio administration.

“First of all, you cannot separate homeless services and low income housing. If you’re not doing well with low income housing, you’re not doing to move people from homelessness into permanent housing,” Stringer said. “[The city] has gone from spending $1.6 billion a year for managing a homeless crisis… What do we have to show for it? We made a bunch of slumlords rich.”

Also speaking were state Senator Brian Benjamin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

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