Letter Explains What Led to Euclid Hall Evacuation

Euclid Hall in less-stressful times.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The sudden evacuation of nearly 300 seniors from Euclid Hall on Monday alarmed witnesses. On Wednesday, Paul Freitag, the executive director of the nonprofit that runs the building, explained the events in a letter sent to WSR, included below.

Euclid Hall is a traditional SRO located on Broadway, between 85th and 86th Streets, housing low-income seniors, some formerly homeless, many with underlying conditions, including addiction and mental illness. Euclid Hall’s high density and shared bathrooms and kitchens made it nearly impossible to practice social distancing.

When a number of staff and residents tested positive for the coronavirus, the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH) made the decision to move the rest to hotels in midtown, where they could safely quarantine, and would have their own bathrooms, three meals a day, and nurses and case managers onsite. The residents were notified and prepared over the weekend.

The evacuation was arduous, but accomplished, as explained in the letter. Each of the vehicles pictured above is an ambulance, not a school bus, holding two people at a time safely. A postscript: Freitag said a few of the residents had pets, which the hotels wouldn’t allow. WSFSSH staff members are caring for them in their owners’ absence, feeding and walking them, as needed. Euclid Hall is being thoroughly cleaned and the residents are expected to return when it is safe.

The letter is here and below.

March 31, 2020

The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH) is a 45 year old nonprofit that provides housing and services to low-income seniors.  In the current crisis, we are finding ourselves at the center of the effort to keep seniors healthy and safe.

For decades, we have provided housing and services on the Upper West Side to 275 seniors living at Euclid Hall.  At Euclid Hall the residents have a private room but share bathrooms, kitchens and have a daily congregate meal. In response to COVID 19, we had healthcare professionals confirm that it would be extremely difficult to isolate cases at Euclid, given the shared living arrangement.  Simultaneously, we experienced our first cases in the building.

Last Friday, working with the City, we identified hotels where the residents would have private rooms and bathrooms.  We also arranged for 3 meals daily and on-site nurses at the hotels to assist in early diagnosis. Recognizing that time was of the essence, over the weekend we worked with our residents to prepare them for the move and on Monday we moved all but a very small number of residents to the hotels where they can have a better chance at staying healthy.  The move was coordinated with the City to be as safe as possible.

I would like to thank the City for their assistance as well as WSFSSH staff who are continuing to provide essential services in our buildings and at the hotels.  I would also like to thank those members of the Upper West Side community who have reached out to support us during this time. It is so helpful to be part of a community working together to respond to this as best we can.

Take care,

Paul R. Freitag
Executive Director
West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 17 comments | permalink
    1. ben says:

      That’s a job well done. Kudos.

    2. Emmaia says:

      The workers at WSFSSH are under-appreciated heroes, and moving residents to safer spaces is part of their huge effort to protect their residents and the neighborhood. So much respect & gratitude. Hope after this the state funds health support workers’ salaries better so the people we depend on can be less precarious.

    3. Gale Brewer says:

      I have been a supporter of WSFSSH since the organization was started by Rev Laura Jervis many decades ago. Paul Freitag, the current CEO, carries on the same deep commitment to the residents of the permanent housing managed by WSFSSH. I am in awe of the fact that WSFSSH and the City of NY were able to place the residents in a safe place for the duration of this horrible Coronavirus crisis. Where they live permanently is an SRO and while it is in great shape and well maintained the kitchens and bathrooms are shared and folks with some mental illness don’t practice social distancing. We should give an Upper West Side cheer to WSFSSH for keeping their residents safe and healthy! Gale A Brewer, Manhattan Borough President

    4. Lorna says:

      Thank you WSFSSH for quickly acting to protect some of the West Side’s most vulnerable residents. Seniors with health issues and a history of homelessness are lucky to have advocates who put there health first. I’m glad the tenants have medical and emotional support from WSFSSH staff in their temporary quarters.

    5. AC says:

      Well written explanation.
      Thankyou to Paul and his Staff

    6. Claire says:

      Euclid Hall is a wonderful place. I had a dear friend that lived there and he was so happy and grateful. The bathroom was shared but always available and the kitchen was always available. Btw, there were a couple of bathrooms on each floor. Everything was spotless.

    7. air tobe says:

      this is amazing 🙂

    8. Pat says:

      Is it certain these residents will get their pets (in essence family) back?

    9. Julie H from Amsterdam Avenue says:

      I wish I could be as reassured about how my 80 year old parents are faring this crisis — and that they had access to the resources that WSFSSH is providing their residents. Not at all surprised that once again the organization is acting in an exemplary fashion to protect and serve their clients and our UWS community. Well done, Paul and staff. Praying for good health for all.

    10. John Krinsky says:

      If only the city had acted with such purpose with shelters. Well, done, WSFSH, and thanks for being a valuable part of the UWS community.

    11. Pamela says:

      WSFSSH is a wonderful organization. Thank you for taking this action to protect vulnerable residents and explaining it clearly.

    12. David says:

      Thanks to WSFSSH for being a responsible and caring organization. Keep up the great work.

    13. Christine says:

      Didn’t we learn from Hurricane Katrina that we can’t expect people to leave their pets behind, to any good outcome?

      I’m sorry, but if I’m being taken out, my pet is coming with me, or, I’m not going absent force.

    14. Janet says:

      Well done, Paul and staff. Praying for good health for all. Great to see you and your team taking the right action to protect your residents, workers and the overall community what you accomplished by planning that change so quickly will save lives. Grateful UWSer!

    15. Joseph Feyjoo says:

      Thank you WSFSSH !
      Excellence and Leadership, consistently delivered by a Not-For_Profit Organization that exemplifies what is possible when, Corporate Resources, Federal Govt,, State, City and Local Municipalities, collectively, acknowledge a fundamental need for “Humanity” in our urban communities. Restoring Dignity, Health and affordable Housing, for the neediest amongst us.

      J.Feyjoo, NYPD Ret.
      Former S.R.O., Officer, 24th Pct. 1976-79
      Community Affairs, Patrol Borough Manhattan North.

    16. Gretchen says:

      This sounds like WSFSSH acted quickly and effectively to solve a problem that only a month ago no one could have foreseen. As a resident of the Upper West Side, I say thank you.

    17. K. Lincoln says:

      I am a resident at Euclid Hall, and all I can say is “Thank you”.

      The staff at the hotel have been wonderful, and the social workers and nurses have gone above and beyond. Their days are long and exhausting. Again, I say “Thank you to all”