For Immediate Release: December 2, 2020
Downtown New Yorkers, Inc. Files Emergency Motion To Prevent City From Moving Homeless Men To Radisson In Lower Manhattan
In Separate Motion, Homeless Men Also File to Stop the Move
Downtown New Yorkers, Inc., a group of Lower Manhattan residents and businesses, has filed a motion in the Appellate Division, First Department, of the New York State Supreme Court seeking to stop the transfer of 235 men from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to the former Radisson Hotel at 52 William Street until the appeal of the lower court judge’s recent dismissal can be heard.
The 53-page emergency motion, which also seeks to prevent the improper non-COVID-19 isolation/quarantine-related use of the Radisson as a temporary hotel shelter, details the City’s misbehavior, including its abuse of emergency authority to create a new permanent shelter and its efforts to mislead Community Board 1 regarding the presence of a permanent shelter in the district. It also highlights the dire consequences to the men and the neighborhood if the City is allowed to move forward.
In a separate effort, multiple homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel have filed a motion seeking to halt action by the city. These men have claimed that the move would irreparably harm them, disrupting their mental health and substance abuse recovery programs by moving them for the fourth time since March.
Downtown New Yorkers has strong grounds to appeal the Supreme Court’s Order dismissing its original petition for lack of standing. The group maintains that the court erred by fundamentally barring the courthouse door as if this was ordinary procurement with which they were not involved, when the real issue was the City trying to solve its political and bureaucratic problems by hiding behind emergency powers that are only available to deal with actual COVID-19 responses.
The group is optimistic the appellate court will not allow the City to immunize itself from any judicial review by proceeding under the auspices of emergency authority when it is the City’s unlawful misuse of this authority itself that is the subject of the legal challenge. 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.
“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”, said Downtown New Yorkers member Theresa Vitug. “We will continue to fight this issue and we demand that the Department of Homeless Services engages with the community in good faith.”
The original suit by Downtown New Yorkers asserted that the city is exploiting the current humanitarian crisis to cover up its own mismanagement, specifically stating that the proposed transfer was not prompted by coronavirus considerations as it must be to fall under the emergency rules for COVID-19-related contracts. The suit noted that there is no public health rationale for the move because the Lucerne Hotel did not require de-densification. De-densification was accomplished when the homeless men were moved from the shelter to the Lucerne Hotel in July.
According to the suit, the proposed move to 52 William Street is motivated by political expediency rather than by public health policy. In fact, the City initially attempted to move the men from the Lucerne Hotel to the permanent shelter at the Harmonia Hotel after objections from Upper West Side residents. When the City received criticism for evicting the homeless already at the Harmonia to make room for the men from the Lucerne, it abruptly announced the shift of the men to 52 William Street without any planning, analysis or public notice.
“The City has reacted recklessly by ignoring its own requirements and repeatedly uprooting these homeless individuals based on political pressure”, said Vitug. “It has been established that the homeless men are better served by remaining on the Upper West Side, where they have access to extensive social programs — including a successful jobs program — that are not available Downtown.”
There are numerous issues related to the 52 William Street site that require analysis and consideration, including its location within 300 feet of four schools and within blocks of 12 schools. Lower Manhattan is currently home to multiple shelters, including a permanent shelter and other facilities for the homeless, and the streets of the neighborhood in the immediate vicinity are narrow and congested.
According to public reports and statements by the homeless men themselves some of the homeless men have psychiatric and substance abuse issues. This would be the residents’ third move since the start of the pandemic, and the individuals themselves have said that another move would further destabilize them.
A Lucerne resident named Shams, on behalf of himself and the other men at the facility, told Community Board 1 that the men are thriving on the Upper West Side and do not want to leave. He said: “Many of us at the Lucerne do not wish to move. We don’t want to move because we’ve been moved around quite a bit. And just up and moving like that, especially with such short notice, is traumatizing, to say the least.”
Speaking publicly at an October 12 Upper West Side Open Hearts press conference that is recorded on Facebook, he said: “I guarantee you if this move goes through, lives will be lost, people will be traumatized, dehumanized, and destabilized. They might turn to substance use to cope, which could kill them.” And later he said: “I say to the West Side Community Organization, Mayor Bill de Blasio, DHS and all stakeholders, if you care even a little bit about shelter residents, as you claim to, listen to one resident myself right now. Call it off. Call it off. Our lives are at stake.”
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