Despite Politicians’ Assurances, All Sex Offenders are Not Barred from New ‘Homeless Hotels’

By Carol Tannenhauser

Despite reassurances from politicians that there are no sex offenders at the three new homeless shelters on the Upper West Side, the city can’t bar all sex offenders from city shelters, according to Isaac McGinn, spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

Only sex offenders deemed “residency restricted” can be banned from shelters that are less than 1,000 feet from schools or child-care facilities, McGinn explained. Gaining that designation depends on factors like the severity of the offense and the offender’s criminal justice status.

It appears that the city had to scramble to make sure no residency-restricted clients are living in the UWS hotels that have been converted into homeless shelters — the Hotel Belleclaire (77th & Broadway), the Belnord Hotel (87th & Broadway), and The Lucerne (79th & Amsterdam). One of the residents at the Belleclaire with a residency restricted sex offender status was just transferred away in recent days.

Hotel conversions such as these are going on throughout the five boroughs, in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus by emptying congregate (dormitory-style) shelters, which make social distancing impossible, into hotels with single and double rooms.

On Monday, 283 men from two congregate shelters on the Lower East Side were transferred to The Lucerne. City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal spoke outside the hotel with a contingent from the community and a WSR reporter. Rosenthal said she had spoken to a city commissioner earlier that morning, who had assured her that there would be no sex offenders living at this site.

But DHS says it can’t unilaterally bar all sex offenders from shelters.

In a follow-up email response to questions from the Rag, Helen Rosenthal’s communications director wrote that, “NYC Commissioner of Homeless Services, Steve Banks, has stated that no registered sex offenders will be allowed to live at the Lucerne.”

As far as the Belleclaire and the Belnord, she added, “all four level 3 offenders were transferred — three were moved several weeks ago; one was just moved.”

There are several other sex offenders listed as living at the Belleclaire, according to a state database that tracks their residences. Asked about the men in that database living at the Belleclaire, State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal wrote in an email to the Rag that “DHS told me those remaining would be moved from the building by tonight. Unclear where they are going.”

Sex offenders who are not residency restricted can still live there, and at The Lucerne, according to DHS. In general, men who are not residency restricted have committed lower level offenses, and they are not on parole or probation.

“I’d also note that other than following State Law as relates to residency requirements, we of course have to follow the law on providing shelter to all who are experiencing homelessness, regardless of background (as you may know, we are under court order in New York to provide shelter to all those who need it),” McGinn noted. “It would be unlawful to discriminate against individuals based on their backgrounds or prior experiences.”

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    1. Peter says:

      It’s all really very cute.

      “We moved level 3 sex offenders several weeks ago,” “we followed State Law”.

      All while allowing them to live 100 yards from a school for several months. Offenders who assaulted and traumatized 4-year-olds (?!).

      Geniuses.

      Can’t wait to learn more about the new batch. Should be just as re-assuring.

    2. Pants On Fire says:

      If you can’t trust a politician’s assurances, who CAN you trust?

    3. Jane says:

      Can’t wait to hear the usual coddling of these people and how they “deserve” to be in a luxury hotel in a residential neighborhood.

      Get them out of the neighborhood ASAP.

    4. mark says:

      One lie after another.

      Rosenthal does nothing for this community

    5. West Seventy-Seconder says:

      Before this devolves, I see two separate issues:
      (1) Should politicians have promised something that they couldn’t legally deliver?
      (2) Should homeless people who’ve committed sex crimes and/or be undergoing treatment for chemical dependence be housed on the UWS?

      Speaking only to (2), the petition linked here is classic NIMBYism, with talk of being made “uncomfortable” and the canard that the problem is lack of proper “notice” rather than of the underlying thing. My answer to (2) is “yes”.

      • Peter says:

        You’re welcome to volunteer and petition for each and every sex offender on the UWS to be housed on W72 St. Better yet, in your building. Or on your floor. Do you have a preferred or maximum saturation level of sex offenders per sq. mile in the UWS? How many is OK for you? How many is too risky?

        As a father and a West Seventy-Ninth-er, I want precisely ZERO of them housed across from my windows, my daughter’s school or her friends’ favorite ice cream shops or playgrounds.

        Let’s see how many are in each camp. Democracy.

      • Gary Levin says:

        My answer to (2) is No. The reason people bought real state with kids attending school in UWS is safety and family friendly atmosphere. ZERO chance anyone would buy real estate at old prices within 3 blocks for these hotels given influx of homeless population. It’s not NIMBY-ism – it’s the reality.

      • ASRR says:

        Personally im not a NIMBY. I didnt vote for DeBlasio or Cuomo. I pay alot to live so that I dont have to have these issues to contend with in mass amounts. I am who I am. I don’t want to live amongst drug paraphernalia and sex offenders in mass quantity. I dont want it in my yard and my voting matches that. Id watch how I throw names around. Its a real class act tactic to blame people with no knowledge of the views of the people in favor of the wrong doer. Now you know a bit about me. I would keep judgements to yourself.

    6. peter says:

      …term limited lame duck rosenthal is deaf to her constituents …she is duplicitous and mendacious…as she steps back from running for comptroller (thank god) she pushes her personal ideological agenda and shirks her pledged responsibility to us the people in her 6th district….long time resident/parent west 79th street

    7. ASRR says:

      This is obscene. Drug use is a reason for the transfer from Hells Kitchen to the Lucerne. These residences are now .1 miles from a drug free school zone that mandates .189 miles from a school. I was told that I should not equate homeless with drugs, which i would not do except that is the fact in this situation. And sex offenders right near a school?
      And let us not forget that the very smart coronavirus knows not to transmit in hotels but will transmit in shelters.
      Lets also add how the tax payers werw given no notice or info.
      Are these enough reasons to believe our community and public official leaders are crooked, out of touch, disgusting individuals?

    8. Catie says:

      Elections matter! Only 18% of city voted last election. Please people, for the sake of our children, vote wisely.

    9. Concerned Neighbor says:

      Maybe it be helpful to leave reviews for these hotels to warn future customers, that could potentially deter hotels from doing this? I personally wouldn’t want to do business with any of these spots in the future.

      • Concerned2 says:

        That’s a very good idea. Neighbors should start leaving reviews for these hotels.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not a good idea unless you want the tourists to never come back and the shelters to always remain for lack of tourists to occupy the hotels., which is how this came about.

      • NatB says:

        You are absolutely correct. Any future guests should know that these hotels served as a homeless shelter. I subscribe to the Westside Rag because I love this area. However, I lived here a long time ago and frequently visit, staying (usually) at Hotel Beacon for long periods. Any of these hotels would absolutely be off my list. Potential guests should be informed.

      • Larry Mack says:

        Good idea.

      • Kate says:

        Excellent idea. I’ll absolutely do this for the Lucerne. They wanted money for housing nearly 300 drug addicts and sex offenders, they got it. They don’t deserve new clients.

      • Lucille says:

        I’m not so sure about this idea. Leaving terrible reviews will discourage future business – and that’s the exact opposite of what we want. Don’t we want the owners to be lured by the prospect of more revenue from tourist bookings so they don’t view the contracts with DHS as more lucrative? Shortsighted to destroy them online, we’re essentially asking the owners to make them permanent shelters.

        • UpperBestSide says:

          The hotels should be held accountable too. They only care about their bottom line and not the well being of the surrounding community. The hotels were not forced into this by DHS, instead they did this because they are being reimbursed (75%) by FEMA. To say that the owners will convert these into permanent shelters if they don’t get back the tourists bookings would mean that FEMA would have to continue to subsidize the cost of these rooms (indefinitely) since there is no way the city would pay these kind of prices.

      • Ellen Shell says:

        These hotels all used to be homeless shelters. They renovated and became boutique hotels. This will be required again and the money the city is paying should help.

    10. Rudy101 says:

      Laws must be rational to be credible and must be credible to be enforceable.

      There has never been even ONE offense related to distance to a park or school.

      I refuse laws that are applied ex-post facto and are only used to punish.

      Laws MUST be rational. It is not rational to deny housing based upon false premises.

      It clearly is safer to NOT register.

    11. Jane says:

      How do we know that the behavior of those who aren’t residency restricted won’t devolve into something that is Level 3.

    12. Solarius says:

      Pray for the mothers of nyc that ignored their sons warnings. May the sunshine of Christ bring protection. May the light help those misled by vanity

    13. Chris says:

      I know this is going to sound off the mark, but if democrats REALLY wanted to help society, and I think they do, they would do much better to do the following: instead of making it easier for women and men to go to work and leave their young children behind (Diblasio’s very destructive centerpiece of day care for all), make it easier for men and women to be HOME with their children. DONT MAKE IT EASIER FOR NEW PARENTS TO GO TO WORK AND LEAVE THEIR CHILDREN WITH OTHERS! How dumb!! And this is why the Republicans have a point when they say that big government stinks. Why do other socialist-styled countries make it work so well? I have no idea. But please, lets stop making it easier for people to go to work and leave their children behind, it does two things: it causes rents to go up making lessors rich and it takes away the mom or Dad from the children! Other countries do not do that. Other countries make laws giving women or men time OFF to be with their children. I know it sounds like a small thing, but it is a HUGE thing in my opinion.

    14. So we already know about the young man screaming at the east/west traffic (if that’s what he’s actually directing his anger towards) from the median on B’way & 79th.

      Last night on B’way & 78th there was ANOTHER guy ranting hoarsely with what was left of his voice (he must’ve been at it awhile by the time I passed him in the dark, around 9pm).

      On Monday, a big guy (between 78th/79th, E side of the street under the scaffolding), probably homeless, had asked me for a cigarette & then screamed: “I can’t take it!”. Since it was around 90 degrees, yeah; I got it). Anyway. when I heard the ranter in the dark the next evening, about 50 feet away, I wondered if it was the same fellow.

      I went home and called 311 & spoke to Nicole, who said they’d send a car around & offer him some services.

      For a status request, this incident is: 311-03369925.

      No judgments here; only pity, sadness.

    15. Old neighborhood lady says:

      These hotels all used to be SROs in the past. They finally gussied themselves up to be Shelters again. Will anyone take them seriously as hotels ever again?

    16. Anne says:

      It is very sad. Personally, I won’t keep paying to live on UWS. I’m not the only one leaving. Luckily I rent. 311 does NOTHING. I called them about the ENCAMPMENT in front of 240 W 72nd —4 filthy mentally deranged guys…I have empathy, but they shouldn’t be unmasked camping on the street in a residential neighborhood. I talked to one of the businesses — they are hurting — they take pictures, complain, cops do NOTHING. I have watched them chat it up with the cops. The cops leave and will do NOTHING unless they are violent. It’s a disgrace. Maybe you guys don’t mind the neighborhood going to hell. I choose to leave. No one in their right mind will move back into the city. I was a die-hard NYer. UWS is dying if you all don’t get strong and save it. And I’ve lived here 40 years— it was NEVER this bad.
      Very sad.

      • Ellen Shell says:

        The other challenge is that camp on West 72 will retaliate against the businesses who complain. For whatever reason, they seem to be permitted to live there with no consequences. All we can do is avoid the area. These people have more rights than the rest of those in the community. Who is privileged again?

        • HelenD says:

          Retaliate how? Those men are rarely lucid enough to converse with anyone. They moved from Joseph’s, City Vet, Gebhard’s, Rosenthal’s office, the Baptist Church, and now they’re at the Emerald Inn. Who did they retaliate against? I’m fed up with everyone commenting that they’re running from the UWS, moving out of NYC, staying away from this block. This didn’t start last week with the Lucerne! It’s been going on for a decade or more, and instead of just complaining in this forum and sticking your heads in the sand, you ALL COULD HAVE HELPED MAKE IMPROVEMENT, instead of telling those of us who tried to change things that we were insensitive to the homeless. 🙁

    17. Cordcutter says:

      I received Helen’s email earlier today.

      I think we’ve been warned. The WJ removed and brought up to Lucerne. The timing lines up doesn’t it:
      https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/07/29/washington-jefferson-hotel-shelter/

      Might be worth contacting Steve to get a handle of what is to come.

    18. Jack says:

      Day 3. A man was passed out due to OD next to DSW. Ambulance had to come over.
      My building announced extra security from 8 Pm to 5 am as they were informed of altercation and drug use around the area.
      Going to be sad when the upper class leaves who support restaurants, stores and the city with their expenditures and taxes.
      Welcome to the upper worst side.

    19. RAWilson says:

      Helen Rosenthal’s recent email states: “Project Renewal has stated that shelter residents who cannot adhere to its “Good Neighbor” policy can potentially be transferred to other shelter sites.”

      Can anyone please point to a definition of Project Renewal’s Good Neighbor” policy? This phrase is used but not specified anywhere.

      Also, it it curious that residents not adhering to this policy *CAN POTENTIALLY* be transferred… what does this even mean?

      • mark says:

        It’s just more empty words without meaning from Rosenthal. It’s what she is best at… just saying things that have no basis in any reality. Nothing she says holds any weight

      • Ellen Shell says:

        I agree. I have tried to find it and conveniently can’t. I wonder if their idea of what constitutes a good neighbor coincides with mine?

    20. On Tuesday, I notified the 20th precinct that they were 15 registered sex offender‘s at the Belleclaire Hotel. I asked them if they were aware and they said no. That they were going to call Helen Rosenthal‘s office. My question to our elected officials as parents who have children, why were we not notified?
      Do our children have any rights? Also, I have a copy of every sexual predator that was at this hotel, and of the 15, they all had raped children except one who had kidnapped and raped a 33-year-old woman
      Cathy Bernstein running for 10th Congressional

      • Sara Kohn says:

        Hi Cathy, was just curious how you were able to find information about how many registered sex offenders were staying at the hotel near you?

    21. Josh P. says:

      For decades people have tried to preserve the look of our neighborhood. But change happens one way or another – we either get new homes or new homeless. Housing opponents denied that there is any cost to their policies for decades, but you really can’t deny it any longer.
      The housing crisis is here at every level – homelessness for the poor, expensive and low quality housing for the middle class, rising property values for the rich that exacerbate inequality.
      Build more homes now.

    22. Simon says:

      In order to keep you and your family safe, I suggest you get a tracking app that shows the crime taking place on the UWS. I know we all feel like things are getting much worse, but I don’t think people have any idea just how many things ARE happening in the neighborhood that we don’t even know about.

      • Denise says:

        Two more cars broken into last night on Riverside Drive and 77th Street – passenger window Park Side.

        How can I get the app you spokof?

        • anonymous says:

          Citizen app – download from app store. It’s frightening to see what’s happening in close proximity to where you are.

    23. Ellen Shell says:

      What bothers me most is the ongoing spin and lack of transparency coming from the leaders. Since our new temporary neighbors have moved in, there is a lot of vagrant wandering in the neighborhood yet Helen presents it as many have full time jobs and it’s just housing that is their issue. How many? What about all the rest? While homelessness and mental illness are not considered crimes, many of these clients have criminal records and seem to exhibit behaviors that don’t seem Good Neighborly to me. I have also tried to find the definition of Project Renewal’s Good Neighbor policy. Can’t. So, what offenses get them moved?

      Until The media exposed all this and permanent residents expressed outrage, this was all on the down low. Who are their constituents and where is the obligation to keep local residents and businesses safe? Crime has been increasing, things that hadn’t been problems in the past. Is this a coincidence? Are the permanent residents suddenly going rogue?

    24. Public says:

      A global airborne pandemic is everywhere YOU cannot leave people in the streets. Remember the ”Callahan Consent Decree” these battles have already been fought & won. Today’s blatant display of intolerance is just awful. Think the resident’s movements are restricted and supervised.
      These are unprecedented times for the remaining SRO senior rent regulated tenants, stay safe & blessed Hon Helen .
      ”There, but for the grace of G_d go I” – anyone of us!

      • Ira Appelsteiner says:

        Why is no one calling for Jerrold Nadler to be replaced? Has he done anything of value to the UWS during the past 3 years?

        • UWSHebrew says:

          He’s against Trump, so he will stay here until his pants come up to his neck.

        • William Dunn says:

          Probably because you are living in a neighborhood filled with Democrat zoombies.

          While they may moan and groan about this now they’ll just go back and reflexively vote the straight Democrat party line.

          You get what you vote for including Clueless Helen Rosenthal, mindless DeDlasio useless Jerry Nadler and everyone’s favorite, AOC.

          Good Luck.

    25. Almost Former Upper West Sider says:

      Does anyone know which service provider is running the shelter program at Belleclaire? I’ve not been able to find this out…

    26. Dustin says:

      So now you want to kick sex offenders out of where you knew they were with no knowledge (or concern) of where they might end up. What ever happened to “knowing where these individuals are makes you safe”?

      To Peter, how many sex crimes were reported in the few months they were there? Guessing none. And odds are if there were any, it wasn’t by a registrant.

    27. RAWilson says:

      So the owners of the Lucerne received $1 – $2 million in Federal bailout loans in April AND still decided to accept FEMA money in connection with Project Renewal for these drug addicted men? Can someone please investigate?

      https://projects.propublica.org/coronavirus/bailouts/loans/201-west-79th-street-realty-corp-5061af7c36421c299f85e98662772b24?fbclid=IwAR1UvhQlKCwglUNPeWOmoOm3t3yiM18lb01vFb-0cZJGC9cMDsU4_2_5LzQ

    28. James F. Love IV says:

      96% of all sex crimes are committed by first-time offenders who have never been on any registry, and who are related to the sex offense victim. The recidivism rate of Registered Sex Offenders is less than 5%. See, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” NCJ-193427 (June 2002) US DOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics.