Upper West Siders march to Gracie Mansion over homeless displacement

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A show of support for homeless New yorkers in front of the Lucerne Hotel on a Sunday. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Rejecting the notion from Upper West Side residents that homeless New Yorkers living in the Lucerne Hotel are leaving a bad mark on the well-to-do neighborhood, up to a hundred activists marched on Sunday against what they see as plain old NIMBYism.

The Upper West Side Community Organization (WestCo) was recently organized to sue the city to remove the homeless from both the Lucerne and Bellaclaire Hotel where they were placed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in shelters.

But the men and women under the care of the city Department of Homeless Services say this did little but disrupt their lives further.

Mike Bonano has lived on the Upper West Side with his wife, and he described how his time in the shelter system has been a process of being moved from place to place by the de Blasio administration. He listed at least four locations before they ended up in the Harmonium where he now faces displacement yet again.

“Four months later, they want to relocate us again and we’re getting tired of it. With the pandemic going on it’s unsafe for all of us, we’ve got people with disabilities and they’re treating us as garbage,” Bonano said in front of the Lucerne at 79th Street and Amsterdam. “Now they want to take us out [of the Harmonium] and put people from the Lucerne in… We finding out the day the bus shows up where we have to go.”

In his time in the shelter system, Bonano says he, his wife and daughter have been moved as far as the Rockaways despite their doctors and life being closer to the city. When they are moved to another location, they lose property, Bonano explained. A two bag limit on personal belongings means residents either have valuables thrown out, or they have to arrange storage among themselves.

State Senator Brian Benjamin expressed disappointment in Mayor Bill de Blasio for what he viewed as empty campaign promises to bring the city together.

“I would have thought Donald Trump was the mayor from what I’m hearing. I’m almost torn because I can’t criticize my fellow Democrats. I believe that de Blasio ultimately has a good heart, but this intrusion is criminal,” Benjamin said. “You create a situation on the Upper West Side where you pitted people against each other… I’m not sure how a decision was made to move people from the Lucerne, but the progressive voices on the Upper West Side were not part of that conversation.”

Up to 100 advocates of homeless New Yorkers were part of the demonstration that started at the Lucerne and ended by Gracie Mansion.