More than 200 homeless men currently staying at an Upper West Side hotel will remain there at least until mid-November, following a court order issued Monday.
The de Blasio administration was planning to transfer the men from the Lucerne Hotel to a Radisson Hotel in the Financial District this week. But a New York State Supreme Court Judge, Debra James, approved a temporary restraining order blocking the move after a lawyer for the men argued they wouldn’t have access to the same programs and jobs as on the Upper West Side.
“I hope that this maybe sends a message to the mayor, let him know that you can’t treat people’s lives like this,” Larry Thomas, a petitioner in the case who’s been living at the Lucerne, told Gothamist/WNYC.
Thomas said he’s looking forward to staying put at the Lucerne, where men who’ve struggled with substance use issues already have access to groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. He also said some hotel residents had already made progress in finding employment in the neighborhood.
“They wanted to uproot us and move us,” he said. “This was what was needed, and I’m happy it took place.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended relocating the homeless men, saying hotels were only supposed to be a temporary solution. The city plans to turn the Radisson into a permanent homeless shelter.
“The reality here is we need to get people into long-term shelter, not temporary hotels,” the mayor said during a press briefing Monday morning. “The temporary hotels were about an immediate crisis around the coronavirus. As we can move away from them, we need to, but we have to do it the smart way and the right way.”
After the judge’s decision, Bill Neidhardt, de Blasio’s press secretary, said the administration “is evaluating its options and will continue to pursue the move to the new location.”
The decision is part of a legal battle that started last week when a group called Downtown New Yorkers, Inc., sued the city in order to block the relocation. On Friday, the judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order on the grounds the group had no standing in the case, but after three men staying at the hotel joined the suit over the weekend, she reversed course.
Advocates like Josh Goldfein, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, welcomed the decision.
“The city made a very rash and unprincipled decision to move these men from the Lucerne, which would have caused them further trauma,” he said. “The judge today said there is no reason to move so quickly. Let's take some time and see whether this really makes sense.”
The men had been staying at the Lucerne Hotel since July. The city transferred them from traditional dorm-style homeless shelters, where they were considered at high risk of contracting COVID because eight to 12 people on average share a room. After neighbors complained about quality of life issues on the Upper West Side and threatened to sue, de Blasio decided to move the homeless men.