New York City plans to move homeless people out of a former hotel in the Financial District and end its “long-term use” of the property as a shelter, a spokesperson for the city agency that oversees homeless services confirmed to Gothamist.
Julia Savel, spokesperson for the city Department of Social Services, which oversees the Department of Homeless Services, said the city will move all occupants out of the former Radisson Hotel New York Wall Street by June 30th.
She declined to provide additional details, including how many homeless people live there, where they will go or explain why the city is closing the facility, which is of a kind highly valued by homeless people and their advocates because it offers single-occupancy rooms, rather than a congregate setting or shared rooms.
“After further review of our capacity and review of the operational needs of this site, we have decided to end the long-term use of this commercial hotel and will phase out the use of this site by June 30, 2022,” Savel wrote in an email.
Really concerning to see the city move to close one of these locations at the same time people on the street are repeatedly telling the city that they don't feel safe in the congregate shelter system and that we need more locations like that.
Advocates for the homeless decried the city's action.
“Really concerning to see the city move to close one of these locations at the same time people on the street are repeatedly telling the city that they don't feel safe in the congregate shelter system and that we need more locations like that,” said Helen Strom, director of benefits and homeless advocacy at the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project.
Soon after taking office in January, Mayor Eric Adams embarked on aggressive campaigns to remove homeless people from the transit system and the city’s streets. The mayor has defended his use of the police to break up encampments, saying he is doing it to preserve homeless people’s “dignity.”
While hundreds of homeless people were displaced in sweeps conducted over two weeks in March, the city said only five had agreed to go to a city shelter. As Adams’ homeless sweeps continue, advocates said a shelter that offers single-occupancy rooms is precisely the type of transitional housing that would help the mayor achieve his goal and he should open more of them.
“I do think that it's counterproductive and misguided to be closing a facility that has single-occupancy rooms in Manhattan,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for Coalition for the Homeless. “But it's not entirely surprising given the tenor of the administration when it comes to ignoring what people who are homeless say that they want.”
The former hotel, located at 52 William St., has 289 rooms and suites, according to its website. Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, said there are about 200 people residing there. That figure could not be independently confirmed.
The Department of Homeless Services and staff at the shelter will help find permanent housing for some of the homeless residents and others will be moved to “suitable” shelters, Savel said. She declined to elaborate.
Since the pandemic lockdown began in the spring of 2020, the Radisson was one of the hotels used as temporary housing for homeless people to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to city officials.
Last summer, when the city moved thousands of homeless people out of hotels and back to dormitory-style shelters, it was forced, through a lawsuit, to assess and provide “reasonable accommodations” to homeless individuals who need to be in a single- or double- occupancy room due to disability or medical needs, according to homeless advocates.
For example, they said, a person who is at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 should not be sent to live in a room with dozens of other people.
“My understanding is that the people who are at this hotel are people who were determined, as part of that process, to need to be in a less dense setting,” Simone said.
'The best one'
Krzysztof Kuczek, 62, known as Chris, is one of the Radisson’s residents.
Homeless since 2019, Kuczek said he lived in four congregate shelters in Brooklyn and Manhattan, typically with 30 to 40 people sharing one room. He said fights broke out regularly and the police were often summoned. The Radisson, he said, is the nicest shelter of them all.
“This one is actually the best one because finally I get the single room,” said Kuczek, who was approved for “reasonable accommodations” due to numerous health issues, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
About two months ago, Kuczek received a city-funded rental voucher, enough to pay for a studio apartment in Coney Island. He hopes to move out before June 30th because he does not want to be transferred to yet another shelter.
“Even though I didn't see it, but I like it,” said Kuczek. Unlike the Radisson, there would be no curfew when he has his own apartment.
After living in several congregate shelters, where he had to share a room with 10 or so men, Rafael Albelo, 53, moved into the Radisson and was grateful to have his own room with a private bathroom. He said he no longer fears being stabbed or assaulted.
I’d rather sleep in the street than to be in a congregate shelter because being in a congregate shelter you are vulnerable to going through a lot of stuff – beat up, jumped in the bathroom.
Like Kuczek, Albelo said he hopes to find a permanent home before the city shuts down the Radisson.
“I’d rather sleep in the street than to be in a congregate shelter because being in a congregate shelter you are vulnerable to going through a lot of stuff – beat up, jumped in the bathroom,” Albelo said.
Homeless advocates do not know why the Adams administration chose to pull out of the Radisson, and a representative of Manhattan Community Board 1 said the temporary shelter operator, Black Veterans for Social Justice, has been doing “remarkable work in running this location.”
Black Veterans for Social Justice declined to comment and referred questions to the city. Kate Smart, a spokesman for Adams, did not respond to a request for comment.
Searching for answers
Three neighbors who live down the block from the shelter said they have not had any issues with its occupants and two said they were disappointed that the city is closing the shelter.
“That's upsetting because a private room - just treating someone like a human seems much better than that. I don't know why they would do that,” said Mo Safavynia, 35, a graphic designer.
In June, Tribeca Citizen, an online community news site, reported that the Department of Social Services had planned to turn the former Radisson hotel into a permanent homeless shelter for adults. Savel declined to elaborate on the city’s moves. The fate of the prime Financial District property beyond June is unclear as well.
“The larger question is why are you closing this location,” said Strom. “We know you have a limited number of single rooms. We know that you don't have enough single rooms to meet the need.”