Hotel Belleclaire Being Used as Temporary Shelter to Protect Homeless People from Covid-19 Spread

Monday night. Photograph by Mark Fosmoen.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Dozens of new guests have checked into the Hotel Belleclaire, on 77th and Broadway, in the last couple of days. According to city records and a man who was checking in, the hotel is being used as a temporary shelter for people who are homeless.

Over the past several weeks, the city has been moving thousands of homeless people into private hotels so they can protect themselves against COVID-19 better than in large, congregate shelters where social distancing is impossible. The city currently has nearly 70,000 homeless people and 100,000 empty hotel rooms. The city expects that 30,000 will be used.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep those we serve out of harm’s way, proactively relocating vulnerable New Yorkers based on risk, beginning with seniors and single adults from larger shelters,” a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) wrote in a statement.

As of May 3, there have been 823 positive cases of COVID-19 among New York City’s homeless population, the vast majority in large shelters. And 65 homeless New Yorkers have died.

DHS would not confirm that the Belleclaire is one of the hotels being used. The Belleclaire’s phone goes to a message saying the hotel is closed until May 15th, with instructions for refunds. The hotel did not respond to an emailed request for comment and the woman currently handling check-ins — who was wearing a tee shirt that said H.E.L.P. — said she had been told not to talk to the press.

Sunday night. Photograph by neighbor.

WSR learned of the Belleclaire’s new status on Monday morning, when an Upper West Sider wrote to us, “Last night (Sunday), the Belleclaire had about 100 people checking into the hotel…It was strange because everyone’s ‘luggage’ was mostly in large garbage bags.”

More people arrived Monday evening. At 6:30 p.m., a yellow school bus discharged people carrying garbage bags of belongings and various suitcases. The people in line were adults, thought it wasn’t clear if this shelter will be for families with children too. Asked if he was coming from another shelter, one older man on the line said yes. He had been in a shelter on Wards Island.

The Belleclaire is a self-described “landmark Beaux-Arts building,” with 244 rooms and suites, providing “a classically elegant, yet contemporary stay in NYC. Set in the residential Upper West Side neighborhood, our accommodations feature intuitive, spacious layouts, boutique accents, and bold furnishings and decor.”

One new resident was clearly thrilled. She was giddy, bouncing on her toes and hurrying people along, clearly eager to return to her space. About 30 boxes filled with mini fridges were stacked up in the lobby. Another person in line said that her room didn’t have a microwave. A staff person corrected her, ‘It does now.’”

A complaint made on Sunday that the building was doing “illegal work” noted that work being done there was okay because it was for a homeless shelter, which is an essential site. Workers were also maintaining distance and wearing protective equipment, according to comments from the inspector.

The complaint.

Mayor de Blasio had opposed the plan to move homeless people into hotels, citing the cost (although some say it could be covered by FEMA.) But advocates pushed back. “Several groups that advocate for the homeless — including VOCAL-NY, Human.nyc, Safety Net and Picture the Homeless — called on Mayor de Blasio to relocate individuals sleeping on the streets and those in crowded single adult shelters into 30,000 of the 100,000 empty New York City hotel rooms,” Curbed reported. “Cities across the country including New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have already started expanding access to hotel rooms for homeless individuals.”

The individuals entering the Belleclaire are not coming from the streets or subways, as the timing might suggest, according to DHS. Instead, the city will ramp up its safe-haven program (we wrote about safe havens here.) “200 new Safe Haven beds will begin to open this week prioritizing vulnerable New Yorkers living on the streets and subways in high-need areas,” a DHS spokesperson said.

We welcome our new neighbors to the Upper West Side.

Additional reporting by Joy Bergmann.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 68 comments | permalink
    1. SR_NY says:

      Are they being tested? Will they be required to be quarantined? How is the safety of the neighborhood being considered?

      • lynn says:

        There are homeless people ‘living’ under the scaffolding on 72nd street (including tie-dye guy). I haven’t been out of my immediate neighborhood but I’m sure it’s happening elsewhere as well. How is this any different…other than these people will now have a (temporary) roof over their heads?!

        • ben says:

          Overall I think it’s definitely better for everyone that we have a temporary solution to house the homeless. But I can understand if folks living on those two blocks are not thrilled by the fact that their local concentration of ‘homeless’ crowd just likely went up by more than several fold.

      • Mandy_UWS says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Of course I’m happy in theory for previously homeless or closely-sheltered people to have safer housing, but filling up (otherwise not highly occupied) neighborhoods with hundreds of new and possibly infected residents does not seem like a good public safety move.

      • J. L. Rivers says:

        Putting them in a hotel is a sign that the safety of the community has been considered.

    2. Things_Never_Change says:

      It used to be an SRO and it’s back to being an SRO. What goes around comes around.

    3. MAD says:

      Question: Testing or not, will these residents have any sort of supervision, treatment, etc. at the hotel?

    4. Buddy Revell says:

      What does it cost the city to house each person at this private hotel? My guess is close to $4,000 a month. Using public funds in this manner is outrageous.

      • Parker says:

        Why is it outrageous?

        • Buddy Revell says:

          Because hard working people can’t even afford apartments for 4k a month.

          • Parker says:

            I understand that concern, but I don’t think this is just a matter of housing. This effort is a temporary measure to get highly vulnerable people off the streets to reduce community transmission.

            If these types of efforts by the city better protect myself, my family, and my neighbors from infection, then I support it.

        • RCP says:

          If you don’t find it outrageous, than you should offer to pick up the tab yourself. Not the other hardworking, tax-paying citizens of New York who are stoically struggling to get by. Homeless need to be motivated to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become self-reliant. Not enabled to celebrate their abject lifestyles in private hotels. Enough is enough. More people should be outraged.

          • Case Manager says:

            I work with the homeless. If only you had any sense as to what it takes for them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as you suggest, you’d never have suggested it. It is logistically impossible. I’m not asking for sympathy for the homeless; I’m merely saying you do not understand that the circumstances that lead most people to homelessness aren’t self-curable. Solving them tends to take incredible amounts of long-term vocational training, psychological support & case management from social service agencies. It’s like you’re saying a butterfly is unmotivated to make a pizza for you. Sure, it may be unmotivated, but it also simply doesn’t know HOW to do what you’re demanding of it.

    5. say-moi says:

      I’d love to know how this works financially? Who makes money from these emergency situations?
      A senior friend of mine signed up for delivered meals via the City for older people. Apparently it’s inedible. It would be interesting to know who benefits from this ‘help’ and what the cost is.
      There should be serious oversight in these cases..
      Yeah right! Fergedaboutit ..

    6. Sherman says:

      There’s nothing more permanent than a “temporary” government program.

      It seems that the UWS is reverting to the bad old days of SROs and homeless shelters.

      • uwsneighbor says:

        I know for a fact the city is bringing back SRO’s for the homeless and the UWS is a prime location. I have a city insider close friend.

    7. liza persky says:

      I think anyone opposing this needs to think hard how they would want to be treated. Being homeless is hard enough. Really shocking to see human beings be referred to as “them.”

      • Cyndi says:

        Thank you….as a homeless senior who became homeless due to domestic violence I now see the way the homeless are treated .
        There but for the grace of God go I…..

      • Thai says:

        Agreed. Such a sad statement on our society, when we should be feeling more charitable at this point. The disadvantaged need help and its an insufficient and unsatisfactory response to deny that because we just don’t want “them” in the neighborhood, or we may feel slightly uncomfortable on the infrequent trip to Zabars or the wine store.

      • Jane says:

        Do you think the pronoun “them” can’t refer to people or something?

      • ben says:

        They/Their/Them are perfectly fine pronouns to refer to human beings, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. You are deliberately making too much out of the wrong topic. So stop trolling.

    8. Kenneth Sherrill says:

      Schadenfreude for a former SRO.

    9. M says:

      All that work renovating the place and now it’s a homeless shelter. Sad really as many that life on our streets do not want help, case in point the tie dye guy.

    10. ruby says:

      many of these homeless people are veterans who deserve our help. Many of these people on the streets are there because they do not have any other choices and are there because of horrible circumstances. Proper and permanant housing needs to be provided immediately….I agree that there is always the concern of more people hanging out , ill, like the tie dye guy….and the crazy guy who tried to approach me today, yelling that maybe I am the one carrying the virus. These people need so much help. But I want to be safe and want all of us to be safe. Such a difficult situation

      • janis says:

        Ruby, actually, the least number of homeless are veterans, compared to the other categories. Out of the over 92,000 homeless in NY, only 1270 are veterans.
        Our veterans are being helped at a rate never seen before, thankfully.
        As the wife of a Vietnam Veteran, I am happy to say that most veterans come home, do well, and add much to our society.
        Sadly, that old trope, magnified by Hollywood, about the “crazy” veteran having flashbacks and living in the gutter, is just that.

    11. NY Native says:

      All people within any group should not be defined by its worst examples. All rich people are not Bernie Madoff. All entrepreneurs are not Martin Shkreli. All poor people are not the tye-dye guy. My family has poor people in it and none of them are remotely like the tye-dye guy. We are talking about a building full of empty rooms. There are people who are currently without homes who need a way to be inside. Easy peasy.

      • lynn says:

        Just for the record, I only mentioned the tie-dye guy because there was a comment in another thread about a possible encampment on 72nd street after scaffolding was erected for construction. I don’t understand how everyone seems to be aware of that particular group of men (for how many years?) and yet none of them have housing.

      • TheGirlPie says:

        Beautifully put, NY Native. Thank you for speaking up and talking sense.

    12. mike says:

      Great reporting as usual by WSR and wonderfully consistent if nothing else, by CityHall as Public safety, quality of life, and law & order are proudly the lowest service priorities of DeBlasio fiefdom. Police & civil service workers may be felony assaulted w no jail time and while here because city fiscal oversight are black box, actual services for the needy resultingly threadbear, plus here crazy intermingling of social orders, naturally integral part of Che Blasio’s cumbaya vision are order of the day. Ntm, in this case our taxpayer subsidation and premiums paid for same must be absolutely extraordinary to incentivize such a gentrified landmark hotel to participate. So, instead of using the now useless tent city medical layout, in Central Park to temporarily accomodate these souls, it’s denominating first class UWS appointments to harbor those suffering from Administration’s poor infrastructure deficits. Dont forget to throw in room & linen service since we likely are paying top dollar. 😀  Good work, Bill.

    13. not political! says:

      Serious question for anyone opposing this: do you have a better (immediate) solution? It’s easy to decry the hotel solution as outrageous. I work with homeless people myself, and it seems a bit outrageous to me, too. But stop being outraged for a second and tell the rest of us how you suggest handling the problem that is homelessness during COVID. This whether or not you like DeBlasio. Serious question. I myself have no better ideas.

    14. Ethan says:

      I live directly across Broadway from the Hotel Belleclaire. While others may say NIMBY, I say YIMBY, and welcome, new neighbors!

    15. Jesse says:

      There was some movement this weekend at the Park West Hotel , on CPW at 106th. It has been closed for several weeks but it looked like some renovations were taking place… big dumpster outside and folks loading it up. Wonder if that’s also being used for sheltering?

    16. oldtimeUWSer says:

      The owners of the hotel (the Horn family) have been involved in NYC homeless shelters and halfway houses going back to the ’80s, quite a few articles online about it. I’m sure it was an easy call for them to make. Guess the wine bar’s not opening this year.

    17. 68th St Mom says:

      Thanks for such a well reported piece, WSR. I’m glad rooms with fridges and microwaves in this area of relatively low infections have been found for our neighbors in need. I hope supportive services are being provided too – a hotel isn’t the easiest place to house homeless people. Good luck to everyone, especially social workers, medical and mental health support people, logistics, transportation and security, who is trying to increase the options and safety for us all, homeless and living nearby. It would be a miracle, but we can just hope the options are better for two, three or six months down the road for th

    18. Jane says:

      I wonder how many rooms will be utterly trashed.

      I also wonder if the media will have the guts to report it.

      • Tarzan says:

        I wonder when the rooms are returned no worse for wear than when used as a hotel, if Jane will have the guts to admit her elitism.

        • Jane says:

          Read up on the utterly destroyed hotel rooms that were given to the homeless of San Francisco in a program that has obviously been discontinued.

          Giving LUXURY accommodations to people with substance-abuse and mental-health issues is a feel-good nonsensical plan.

      • UWS Raised says:

        Disadvantaged people are given a safe place to stay in the midst of a PANDEMIC, but because it happens to be in a luxury hotel, your first thought – and clearly, your primary concern here – is that they would intentionally destroy their rooms?

        And listen Jane, when “the media” decides to pivot its attention from an international pandemic to more pressing matters – like the state of luxury hotel rooms post-occupancy – they can start by asking employees at luxury hotels to list every instance in which some of the wealthy guests who typically occupy these rooms leave the space absolutely trashed. You’ll hear enough stories to last a lifetime.

    19. nycityny says:

      I walked by the hotel at around 7:30pm Tuesday evening and saw a car in front unloading some bags of belongings. Across the street on the NW corner of 77th/Bway were two homeless (?) guys talking to the folks emptying the car, yelling across 77th St.

      I’ve noticed over the past several days that the homeless people who were hanging out on Amsterdam between 70th-71st are no longer there. A few were always next to Wells Fargo and some in front of the now re-opened Starbucks. Perhaps they are now housed at the Belleclaire?

    20. Eric Schneider says:

      I sincerely hope your closing line, “We welcome our new neighbors to the Upper West Side” was meant sincerely. As a 40-year resident of the UWS, I am proud that we are trying to assist everyone in need. We are in this together. I, for one, am no better than anyone else.

    21. BJK says:

      Knowing that this is a controversial move, to end the article with “[w]e welcome our new neighbors to the Upper West Side” shows a bias and an opinion when all I really want from the WSR is facts. If the author wanted to express an opinion, she could have posted a comment here—not in the main article. Bad reporting.

    22. Anonymous says:

      I’d like to mention that at 7am there are homeless chain smoking all over the street. I did not see one person with a mask? But I did see one going through someone’s trash. Why are they sleeping in front of the church and going through trash when they’re using the hotel?

      How is this acceptable?

      • HelenD says:

        Well Tie Dye and his group are camped out on the SE corner of WEA. He is not looking good and very sedate so I hope they’re not sick. Someone is leaving him oranges. Attempted to go out to the mailbox and their stuff is spread out across the sidewalk and because there is scaffolding the the only way to avoid them is to walk into the street, but there were people waiting for the bus, socially distanced on sidewalk and street, so really no safe way to pass at all. How do we help get them inside?

      • DM says:

        It isn’t (acceptable). I suspect a lot of them are mentally ill. A generous provision of shelter won’t–can’t– address that. It is so much more complicated. What a mess. Tragic for all involved.

    23. Tanya says:

      God Bless the Belleclaire. How incredibly special to have a business in our neighborhood who welcomes those in greatest need into their home. Thank you, Belleclaire. May we all support this act of humanity and kindness, and may the government and our collective efforts assist these individuals with getting safe, new, permanent housing in the coming weeks and months. Be safe and well, everyone.

      • Boris says:

        You must not be familiar with how profitable it is for either a hotel or apartment building to rent housing to the City. The Belleclaire is not doing this out of the kindness of their heart. Their motive is strictly profit-driven because there are no other guests staying in the hotel with travel at a standstill. I’m sure they’re making out very well with this arrangement or they wouldn’t risk their reputation with future visitors.

        There’s a tendency for people to get overly impressed with businesses that claim they’re staying open because they feel the need to serve the neighborhood. What did they contribute to the neighborhood in pre-COVID times? Did they sponsor any programs or give back some other way like Beacon Hardware did?

        • Tanya says:

          I am happy they have found a positive way to stay in business. Profit doesn’t equal bad. Be well and safe.

      • Buddy Revell says:

        Tanya- you think they aren’t getting paid handsomely for this? Otherwise, their hotel rooms would be vacant. It was a business decision. The city pays outrageous rates to house homeless in private hotels. Much more than they could likely collect running at historical capacity rates.

        • Tanya says:

          I didn’t think they weren’t getting financial assistance of some sort. I am glad they can stay in business while serving the underserved. Be well and safe.

    24. Public says:

      Happy for them, housing should be a human right.
      What happened to the SRO tenants that are rent stabilized? How do they feel and are they put at risk? What about health & safety precautions fumes/ poor air quality, Co19 virus? New hotel staff/security? Where do they prepare their meals for children without kitchens? Did they receive adequate instruction mask, gloves?
      How did this hotel get this NY DHS$ contract? Stay Safe

    25. Granny says:

      I know there are permanent tenants still living there rent stabilized. How do they feel about sharing common areas and elevators with those fro homeless shelters?

    26. slr says:

      This is not good Mayor de Blasio is not doing his job There Homeless who are affected at Hotel Belleclaire

    27. 123Train says:

      AS IF this will remain “temporary.” Once the Belleclaire owners have tasted the good life of the City paying outrageous sums of money to house homeless from other neighborhoods, this will become yet another permanent shelter. Same thing happened in the West 90s, which turned the surrounding blocks into one big hot mess.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        the idea that the blocks surrounding the homeless and supportive living facilities on W. 95th and W. 94th are “one big hot mess” is a fabrication, in other words a lie. Crime was an is low on W. 95th, which had two facilities until recently and still has one supportive living facility. Property prices were high until the recent economic crisis.

        The block is quiet and nice, given that it is a through street.

        People repeat the same canards, over and over. They fit a certain type of right wing narrative, even if they don’t fit the facts.

        • 123Train says:

          Not sure which West 95th Street you’re referring, but it’s sure not the one on the Upper West Side! There are two shelters (or supportive housing, whatever you want to call it) on that street alone, and numerous others in the area, on 93rd, 94th, 97th, 98th, etc. Your factless rant doesn’t hold water, no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on.

    28. Friend of Tenant says:

      Last Sunday evening the NYC Department of Homeless Services quickly moved many homeless people into the Hotel Belleclaire on 77th and Broadway. None of the permanent residents—of which there are over 22—were informed of this in advance. The previously homeless people were not tested for COVID-19, although many of the homeless population carry the virus and many have died from it.

      The 1903 building, with over 200 rooms and apartments, is run as a hotel by Shimmie Horn, also the owner of the 7 Triumph Luxury Hotels. Like many privately converted old buildings in NYC, the Belleclaire still has existing rent-stabilized tenants, many whom have lived there for forty or more years. This is an old and frail, high-risk population, many with health issues, a few with extreme medical situations that make them acutely vulnerable to death by COVID-19. Many of these older tenants have been sheltering in place, trying to avoid the virus. The building has only two small antique passenger elevators, so tiny that two people cannot be 4 feet apart. There is no policy on the number of residents permitted to crowd in an elevator.

      For the first days, the new residents celebrated by going up and down the elevators and gathering in the lobby, most without wearing masks. Only with repeated complaints were signs put up saying that residents had to wear masks in the public space.

      The City of New York Department of Homeless Services has put the current residents of the Hotel Belleclaire in this high-risk situation. It is morally imperative that the City take responsibility for carefully policing the large group of new tenants and protecting the existing tenants, starting with Covid-19 tests for everyone they have recently moved into the building, a move that would protect all residents.

      • Leslie says:

        I live at 76th/Broadway. I’m 71 years old and take medication that suppresses my immune system. From the beginning of this pandemic I’ve used utmost caution – working from home, mask, gloves, social distancing, etc. There are many like me in this densely populated residential neighborhood – responsible people – many seniors – doing their best not to get Covid-19. Shame on the city for planting hundreds of people at high risk of being contagious in our midst.

        • Please think a little says:

          Leslie, surely you’re capable of critical thinking. The city should not place homeless people in your neighborhood because you live there? By that logic, the city should not place homeless people in ANY neighborhood, because every neighborhood contains, well, PEOPLE. By your logic, homeless people should not be anywhere at all. What a waste of an argument. Nonsensical.

          • Leslie says:

            Dear “Please Think a Little” – There are many, many parts of this city that are less densely populated, less residential, less filled with vulnerable elderly people and young families. Better places to house a large population likely to be contageous. You fancy yourself a fine thinker? Think of a better solution for these people in need than making Shimmie Horn richer.

            • Please think a little says:

              OK, then please name the areas you’ve got in mind. By my calculations, young people and old people are pretty darn ubiquitous, considering that the only people not young or old are middle-aged.

              Also, the homeless should be place in a less densely populated neighborhood? Where in the heck is that, Toledo?

              I get that you have a medical condition, but every neighborhood has people with medical conditions. In a city of this density, no one can reasonably expect special consideration. That’s what it is to be part of a society.

      • Kadar Harris says:

        I live in the Belleclaire Hotel as a statutory resident and I will be filing a lawsuit against them in Federal Court next week !

    29. Sprinkles says:

      Honest question: Are the Belleclaire’s housekeeping staff having to clean up after people who may have Covid-19 and haven’t been tested? And what happens if the new residents don’t want to leave when the immediate pandemic threat is over? I’ve always wondered how that works when the city pays for hotel rooms.

    30. Upper west side says:

      As someone who lives in the area and has walked by the hotel recently i will say that the homeless coming to and from this shelter are NOT wearing masks. I watched one coughing and coughing on the corner which is appalling. These people should have been tested and not put in an area mostly consisting of families with young children and the elderly.

      Are they checking the mental health of these new residents or checking them for covid 19? Is there security watching them? Is anyone checking up on the elderly tenants who are high risk living in this building to see how they’ve been effected and potentially taken advance of by homeless? Because it’s pretty useless to be putting them in a sheltered building where they’re just spreading it to each other and everyone they come in contact with while they’re walking around the street. If they’re not checking their mental health, covid 19 status what exactly are they doing? They’re just putting otherwise mentally ill individuals in an area where they can take advantage and have a nice place to sleep?

    31. Kadar Harris says:

      Hello my name is Kadar Harris and I am a statutory resident at the Belleclaire Hotel. What they are doing is absolutely illegal. They gave us no notice prior to participating in this program; which is a violation on the Residential Premises Liability Law. This is very negligent as there are senior residents that permanently live at the Belleclaire; including my roommate. This puts all of our lives at risk ! I’m currently drafting a complaint against them which will be filed in Federal Court next week. This is outrageous. Please contact me if you’d like to know more, as this is a big problem and the Belleclaire ownership will be held accountable. Please see my change.org petition.