Dozens of homeless people have been living at the Excelsior Hotel at 45 West 81st street, as the city continues to rely on temporary private housing while officials work on longer-term solutions. The residents are families with children, according to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

There are 40 people in the hotel, State Rep. Linda Rosenthal confirmed to us.

A spokesperson for the DHS wrote that the city is “renting some rooms in this commercial hotel to help meet its legal obligation to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers who would otherwise be turned out onto the street.”

“Although this hotel is not being converted into a homeless shelter, DHS provides 24/7 security and on-site social services for families during their stay there. This administration’s long-term goal is to open additional shelters and end the City’s decades-long practice of using hotels when necessary to meet its legal obligation to provide shelter.”

DHS did not immediately have information on how much the city pays per night for the rooms.

Taesha Caesar is one of the mothers staying at the hotel. We spoke to her as she wheeled a double stroller out of the hotel, heading for Key Foods on Amsterdam Avenue. The food the city serves, she said, “is not that appetizing or healthy, but, thank God, we get food stamps.”

Caesar has been living at The Excelsior for almost three months, while waiting for a placement into a permanent apartment. “We love it here,” she said. “We went to the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the library. We went to many places in the neighborhood, because it’s beautiful. They have lots of good people out here, really nice people.” She says there are three floors of homeless families staying at the Excelsior.

excelsior2Others have expressed concern about the arrangement. A neighbor from the next building, who told us of the situation, wrote that some people in nearby buildings have been trying to get information about what’s going on. The siting of homeless shelters — temporary and permanent — has been a flashpoint in neighborhoods throughout the city for years, including on the Upper West Side. In 2012, the DHS installed a homeless shelter in a notorious building on 95th Street without public review, sparking outrage. Half of that shelter is now permanent affordable housing for veterans.

The homeless shelter population in the city jumped under Mayor Bloomberg from 31,000 in 2002 to more than 50,000. Bloomberg began placing residents in hotels and other private buildings, sometimes alarming neighbors. The practice has continued under Mayor de Blasio as homelessness has continued to rise, to 59,000 shelter residents as of Tuesday night. De Blasio has launched a plan to add supportive housing, but housing groups say the governor is dragging his heels.

On Yelp, some people staying at the hotel have complained.

“Unbelievable! I have stayed at this hotel on the upper west side in a good neighborhood for 5 years, and was never was notified when I booked his year that this has become a welfare hotel.  I am now having to pay 200 plus a night to have homeless people live in a hotel for free while the city pays half as much and pays a security team to watch over the sixth floor to make sure nothing bad happens. And I booked on orbitz and it said nowhere that this is a welfare hotel. Now I am not bad mouthing homeless, but they stay at an expensive hotel for free and they have to have security just for them! Ps one star for excelsior hotel”

Another reviewer had a similar concern.

“THIS IS A WELFARE HOTEL. On my way up the elevator after I checked in, there was a woman with me who had a shopping cart full of two black trash bags full of her belongings. Once we got to her floor, I found there was a security guard (I could not tell if this person was armed or not). I also had cause to come back to the hotel very late one night and let’s just say there are a number of unsavory characters roaming the hotel at that hour. I have nothing against anyone getting a little help when needed, but for what you pay for this hotel (in my case more than $300 per night), I think that is enough not to be staying in a welfare hotel.”

Reporting contributed by Carol Tannenhauser.

NEWS | 61 comments | permalink
    1. Fed up with snobs. says:

      My god. How might you feel if you had nothing to your name but two bags of clothes. Homeless is not equivalent to harmful, especially homeless children. Try to have some empathy. You may have great fortune now, but a day may come when you are struggling, in whatever way. That day you will be grateful for the kindness of strangers, and for the understanding of a community. Instead of complaining, perhaps you could offer a way to help.

      • dannyboy says:

        Agree. The Yelpers write:

        “I am now having to pay 200 plus a night to have homeless people live in a hotel for free while the city pays half as much…And I booked on orbitz”

        As orbitz users they must know that they are getting a better deal than people who booked direct. But they want a deal and don’t want anyone else to get a deal.

        • Steve Thomas says:

          Hey Dannyboy, I don’t see you taking in any of these people.

          You are full of it. Lip service! Fake.

          • dannyboy says:

            Steve Thomas, I appreciate your providing your name, because I am grateful NOT TO KNOW YOU.

            Name-calling is childish.

            • Steve Thomas says:

              Oh dannyboy, you are in no position to accuse anyone of being childish just on the basis of your posts alone.

            • dannyboy says:


              THAT would be considerred a Comment. Not “You are full of it. Lip service! Fake.”

              That is certainly childish.

        • JDP says:

          Anyone booking a hotel in NYC for under $200 gets what they pay for… and it usually isn’t much.

          Glad to see the hotel is doing something good for families in need.

      • UWSider says:

        Completely agree. Can we please agree that until proven otherwise, all people deserve to be treated with respect. Most people think “homeless” equates to dirty, dangerous, undesirable when the truth is most people lose their homes and wealth for lots of reasons.

    2. dannyboy says:

      “We love it here,” she said. “We went to the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the library. We went to many places in the neighborhood, because it’s beautiful. They have lots of good people out here, really nice people.” – Taesha Caesar

      Welcome neighbor!

    3. Debbie D. says:

      Kind of a sad picture of the reality of homelessness in NYC.

      There isnt enough housing thats realistically affordable for many families.

      Which causes them to enter the shelter system.

      There arent enough shelter placements to handle the influx of the newly homeless.

      Neighborhoods dont want shelters in them so the city ends up renting out rooms at insane rates.

      Its also important to know that these arent just random people. These are families. There are kids.

      • B.B. says:

        There will never be “enough” low income housing for NYC. Long as the City is bound legally to provide shelter to all and sundry who request, there just isn’t a light at the end of a tunnel.

    4. Elizabeth says:

      I have to wonder about the newsworthiness of this piece. It borders on Trump fear mongering. I can hear him now: a lot of people are saying homeless people are unssvory; I don’t know but people on Yelp are saying it. I really find this article offensive.

      • Not my upper west side says:

        I too find the debate offensive, but I don’t think the article is. Would I have published such an article? Was it necessary to bring light to this? Was it thoughtful? …

        • Elizabeth says:

          I think to all of those questions is no. “Bring light”? To whom? The people who can afford to live in the neighborhood and don’t want to see the reality of homelessness in our city? That’s a worthy reason, but that is not the article that was written. This is a thinly veiled NIMBY piece. Rag, we are not just our brother/sister’s keeper in other people’s neighborhoods.

      • Mitch says:

        I’m glad WSR published this, it’s important news for people who live in the neighborhood to know.

        I agree with the commenters who have sympathy for the homeless, and imagine what a good thing it is for Taesha Caesar’s kids to spend some time in a nice neighborhood and see what life can be like.

        That said, trying to wedge welfare clients into what had been one of the more reasonably priced hotels in Manhattan is probably a bad idea. If the city needs to do this, they would be better off renting the whole hotel, too many security issues. A company I used to work for used to put people up in the Excelsior when they came to visit us from other offices. You wouldn’t do that now, if only because of noise issues.

        People staying at a hotel, even at the theoretically bargain rate of $200 a night (or $6,000 a month) have every right to know that this is what they can expect, and people living in the neighborhood have every right to know it too.

        • dannyboy says:

          “People staying at a hotel, even at the theoretically bargain rate of $200 a night (or $6,000 a month) have every right to know that this is what they can expect, and people living in the neighborhood have every right to know it too”

          No hotel I have stayed at provided a Profile of the other guests.

          Also, no hotel in the neighborhood has provided a profile of its guests.

    5. Sandra Ceslowitz says:

      Homeless people are part of city life. (Unfortunately for them.) Every neighborhood needs to house them.

    6. Christine E says:

      Interesting. Though I don’t think the Excelsior has in-room kitchen facilities, which are hugely helpful for families with kids. Perhaps the city should consider the Milford on 76 and Broadway. We stayed there long term (emergency repairs in our apt) and they have some units with kitchettes and a bit more space for families. Should be a bit cheaper than the Excelsior too.

    7. Nathan says:

      I don’t object to housing the homeless, but I do object to wasting taxpayer money. I hope the city is getting a seriously good deal on these rooms.

      • Michael Hobson says:

        It’s a benefit & positive reflection to all society that FAMILIES who need help can (and must) be reasonably, w/dignity accommodated in their times of need. One assumes that taxpayers might be paying a premium a/o extending tax benefits to a Hotel under no legal obligation to accommodate other than paying guests on the basis of its property value status. Of course if so bad off, obviously, welfare must be included with housing if jobless. However, that said, who ever of our wise leaders makes such in the dark top down decisions of this kind for good or ill do NOT or RARELY have to live with the consequences, share any legit concerns, make accommodation(s) a/o b in any manner affected. Whether it’s this example or war begat deindustrialization of Middle Eastern sovereign nations Iraq/Libya/Syria and concomitant catastrophic displacement of multitudes. It might reasonably be the kind of consequences citizens un-included in decision processes WHO PAY THE BILLS want no part of at their doorstep while OUR SERVANTS stand well afar socially, financially and aesthetically from aggregate repercussions.

    8. Sean says:

      Various hotels on the UWS that now cater to tourists still have tenants living in them from when they were residential hotels. I bet this doesn’t sit well with a number of people as well. Ah the joys of gentrification.

    9. Catherine says:

      Lets try being kind to one another. There but by the grace of God go I. No one reported anything happened to them. The Excelsior Hotel has ling been a “resident” hotel, much like the Beacon where there are still lingtime residents living there under rent guidelines protection.
      Trust me, there were a lit more unsavory goings on in the 70’s-80’s. Take a deep breath and feel empathy for these families. We recently had friends (this month) who stayed there w their child frim Japan and had a lovely time.

      • Richard says:

        God has nothing to do with it. We all create our own destiny

        • dannyboy says:

          “We all create our own destiny”

          …because there is equal opportunity for all?

          • Fake says:

            People like you pretend equal opportunity should exist for all but never actually do much to make that happen or really have an idea on how that would be possible (its not, never has been and never will).

          • Richard says:

            Missing my point all together clearly. I said God has nothing to do with it.
            That said, opportunity doesn’t just find you, you create it, you seek it out. I am not saying its harder for some people, but again, life is what YOU make of it.

            • dannyboy says:

              Richard, I did get your point about NOT God. But my question deals with:

              We play the hand that we are dealt the best we can.
              But other players sometimes cheat.

              Agree or not?

    10. B.B. says:

      Have a soft spot for these old grande dame hotels of the UWS. No they aren’t always chic and trendy like something out of a Prada or Gucci photo spread, but they do have a charm in their own way. Also yes they can remind you of something out of the film “The Out of Towners” ( no surprise since many haven’t been updated since the 1970’s, *LOL*), but that can be a good thing.

      At least the Excelsior Hotel is still around. Unlike the Mayflower that was further down near Columbus Circle.

    11. west side walking says:

      This was never an “elegant” hotel. In fact years ago, I recall it may have been used for some “single room occupancy” tenants in the past.

    12. JS says:

      throughout the U.S hotels are used to house homeless families.we were in a Hilton chain in Massachusetts and surprised to see.
      There are many struggling families in this country

    13. David Robinson says:

      Thanks for having the courage to help the homeless there. For those who complain about living close to the housing for those less fortunate. Get over it. Everybody is a Somebody. I chair a committee which finds housing for our chronic homeless. I am happy out rapid re housing works here in Salt Lake City,Ut. David Robinson

    14. Patricia Santelli says:

      How sad these visitors think they are so much better than the people down on there luck. I say thank you to the good hearted management for their compassion. I will definitely recommend the Excelsior.

    15. James says:

      … are these the same people lamenting the loss of neighborhood “character” as an area becomes gentrified?

      Contrary to the belief of these posters, New York City does not have an obligation to make sure tourists and non-residents do not have to “see” the homeless problem that exists in our City, even if it’s “bad for business”. New York City should, however, make sure that everybody, homeless and visitor, is safe.

      If people want to only mingle with a certain class of individuals, and want to live a daily lifestyle which allows for them to “pretend” that there aren’t homeless or poor (or sick or downtrodden, for that matter) people, there are an incredible number of suburban areas very close to the City that do their best through lack of services and transit to make sure that such people won’t be seen. New York City may be an incredibly affluent place, but it is still a place where we routinely observe people in different circumstances than ours. . . Where we cannot pretend that homelessness and poverty don’t exist right on our shiny and beautiful streets… It may not match the New York City of our movies but it is Life and it is Reality and those of us fortunate enough to have a steady job or a steady roof over our heads are not exempt from seeing people of different circumstance.

      Those visitors/tourists writing the comments above are within their rights to move to another hotel if it suits them obviously, but their comments seem to be callous in that there is an expectation that a certain cost of entry entitles you not to have to “see” a very real problem on our streets. I would hope that most people’s reaction would be simply that NYC has a real homeless problem to solve, not to be offended that they rubbed shoulders with the homeless

      • Js says:

        James – thank you for a very thoughtful comment.
        One small point though…my sense is that newer visitors (and newer residents) to NYC who embrace its new glossiness are more likely to feel “entitled” to not need to deal with concerning social issues.
        Thinking back to the residents who years ago helped preserve an SRO on 87th Street – can’t imagine newer residents now wanting to do such a thing

    16. reality says:

      The issue for me is the use of tax payer money to fund housing in expensive areas of Manhattan. Could these homeless people be housed more efficiently in a cost effective location? Contrary to popular belief, nobody has the right to live wherever they want if they can’t afford it.

      • Elizabeth says:

        The answer is to build enough affordable housing. No one wants to live in a hotel room at the Excelsior. The tourists are paying $200 so you can imagine that the ‘luxury’ component is really a stretch. No administration in the city has figured this out since the 80s (that is my length of experience working with homeless clients), but you can be sure no homeless people are at the Mandarin Oriental.

        • reality says:

          Yeah, but even if the city is paying half the mkt rate of the tourists, then it comes out to 3k a month to house someone there. The city should not be paying that kind of scratch to house someone in an expensive neighborhood in Manhattan when there are other alternatives.

          • bob says:

            You would be shocked if you knew how the City operates to provide shelter for homeless. The NY Constitution grants every NY resident a right to shelter, but the City only has so many homeless shelters. So they contract with private landlords — usually of buildings or old motels in crappy neighborhoods — to rent space at extraordinarily high rates. Unlike almost every other City contract, where there is a whole bidding process to ensure reasonableness and ethics in the contract process, these housing contracts are exempt and there is NO bidding process. There are only a handful of landlords that get these contracts. So the City pays incredibly high amounts for these spaces, and a handful of private landlords make millions.

            • B.B. says:

              IIRC it is Article XVII of the New York State Constitution, which declares that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions….”, which is the basis of the legal settlement that mandates housing as a “right” in NYC.

              The case of Callahan v. Carey was settled by consent decree in 1981 which set the precedent for several other lawsuits/gains by the homeless and their supporters.

              The rest you can read here:

        • B.B. says:

          Many of these homeless housed in shelters/hotels need low income and or supportive housing. Both of which are in very short supply.

          Years ago many in this sort of situation could find housing in the many SRO hotels that once were plentiful on the UWS and elsewhere in the City. That or the various housing run by the YMCA, Salvation Army and other groups. Well many of those nonprofits sold off their properties to cash in on rising land values. SROs began being emptied out on the UWS and elsewhere during the Koch administration and has progressed steadily since.

      • Mary says:

        What kind of selfish real estate nonsense is this? Keep your xenophobic attitudes to yourself, this is a city of the people and yes they can stay where ever they want/need to. It’s not up to you, keeping people in impoverished areas improves nothing in these people’s lives, many of them with children. Show some compassion and stop acting like New York is some yuppie playground. The Upper West Side was for many years not an affluent place to live. Shame on you.

        • Christine E says:

          Mary, I didn’t read that comment as anything but economic. A hotel that is half the price could house twice the number of families. Which is a laudable goal.

          • dannyboy says:

            Christine E, that is a very kind interpretation, but did you read to the end:

            “nobody has the right to live wherever they want if they can’t afford it.”

    17. Sean says:

      An expose’ on the residential hotels of the UWS is long overdue.

    18. H says:

      We cannot ignore that many homeless people also have other issues (behavioral/mental health) so perhaps that is part of the distrust or questioning of them being in any community. That is a legitimate concern any time housing needs are decided. Now there is also the cost effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the city paying to house these homeless people in one of the highest costs for housing/rent cities in the world. Would it not be cheaper to buy a building in one of the other boroughs and house them there? Or rent from existing buildings which is cheaper? Saving the city money to be spent on other areas to combat this issue.

      • B.B. says:

        What makes you think the “other boroughs” want homeless sent there from Manhattan, and or do not have similar issues of their own.

        Staten Island (believe it or not) has its own homeless problem but the de Blasio administration has been renting hotel space and sending people out there. With some very sad out comes. That and yes, a fair amount of NIMBY protests.

        You see the same thing in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and even the Bronx, people just don’t want anything to do with shelters/homeless system. Am not saying this is good or bad, just is…

        • H says:

          I doubt people in those boroughs want them. I was speaking more toward the cost involved where it is less expensive to rent in some areas of those boroughs but you’re right. Homeless or transitional housing does exist elsewhere and NIMBY is always an issue.

    19. anon says:

      After seeing the uproar in Maspeth do you think it is wise to highlight their transitory status?

      Will those children really be safe . . . Endicott, The Martiniique part deux.
      Wanna put a dent in homelessness, STOP evictions asap!
      It’s cheaper to keep them in apartments.

    20. My ¢ says:

      This horrible uptick in homelessness began during the previous administration, pandered to real estate at all costs.
      People were pushed out, force out and some even checked out in fear being without a home-Belpaire W23rd.
      Not all but, certain safety net, nonprofits$ turned a blind eye allowed it to grow and grow while becoming millionaires and commercial property owners.
      Since 1979 Callahan v. Carey the problem remains. Housing court judges who collude permitting sewer service defective documents.
      It’s not personal it’s big business and marginalize people are fodder.

    21. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      I wonder what the taxpayer’s tab is for all of this free housing, medical care, food, etc. What about the people who work for a living and have all this money taken of of their paychecks?

      • Annoyed says:

        I can tell you…the right to live only where we can afford too after being forced to donate 40% of our hard-earned paycheck to inefficient and corrupt politiand. Wasting taxpayer money is such a morale booster

    22. B.B. says:

      Wait a minute.

      Just realized something.

      For the past few weeks have seen various homeless panhandling in front/near this hotel. In fact just last Friday evening walking towards Columbus to catch the bus there was a mother with a toddler in stroller soliciting those passing…

      Thought to myself at the time things just keep getting bad in this city as panhandling is every where. It just dawned on me that those persons probably were residents of the Excelsior Hotel.

      Am not hating or whatever, but the residents of the co-ops/rentals along that stretch of West 81st probably are not pleased….

      • dannyboy says:

        “but the residents of the co-ops/rentals along that stretch of West 81st probably are not pleased….” – B.B.

        I’ll bet those homeless people are “not pleased” even more, being homeless and all.

      • Js says:

        If you see someone panhandling with a child – if you are able to find/alert a police officer that would be best.
        The NYPD can determine if there is child endangerment etc