By Carol Tannenhauser
Pledging to “prioritize the safety and well-being of Upper West Siders,” City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal sent an email blast to her constituents on Wednesday, outlining the demands she is making of the City regarding the three hotels in the neighborhood — the Belleclaire, Belnord and Lucerne — that have recently been converted to homeless shelters.
First, I have told City Hall that under no condition will we accept any more temporary shelters. Approximately 500 shelter residents have been placed in commercial hotels within a few blocks of each other — approximately 100 at the Belnord (209 W. 87th St); 100 at the Belleclaire (77th & Broadway); and now almost 300 at the Lucerne on Amsterdam Avenue (at 79th Street).
I have also told City Hall that we will not accept any registered sex offenders. In response, NYC Commissioner of Homeless Services, Steve Banks, has stated to me that no registered sex offenders will be allowed to live at the Lucerne.
According to the NYS Sex Offender Registry, there have been 14 registered sex offenders living at the Belleclaire — ten level 2 offenders and four level 3 offenders.
Commissioner Banks has confirmed that all level 3 sex offenders have been moved out of the Belleclaire. And I am demanding that all remaining offenders be moved out as well.
Lastly, I believe there should be fewer temporary shelter residents in our neighborhood — 500 is just too many. I’ve made it clear to Commissioner Banks and City Hall that it will be far more feasible to keep our community safe, and properly serve shelter residents, if there are fewer persons living at the Lucerne.
The Department of Homeless Services has said that it cannot bar all sex offenders from living at the shelters, as long as they are not “residency-restricted,” a classification generally reserved for offenders who have committed the most serious offenses. It’s not clear whether Banks’ statement to Rosenthal overrides that policy.
Rosenthal reiterated that she was not party to the latest decision by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to move 283 single, homeless men into The Lucerne, and was notified just days before the move was made, on July 27th. She had been criticized by some community residents for not preventing the shelter from coming.
DHS says it is moving homeless people to hotels to stem the spread of COVID-19 because social distancing is easier when people can be split into separate rooms. Some neighborhood residents fear these shelters will become permanent, but Rosenthal pledged to “fight any attempt to keep (them) here longer than necessary.”
Meanwhile, she said, “I will be intently focused on The Lucerne, and the other two temporary shelters, for the duration of the pandemic.” She also included the following information.
- Upper West Siders who see or experience anything of concern should call (646) 845-3339. This number will go directly to Project Renewal staff at The Lucerne, who will be available 24/7.
- I also urge you to call 311 with any shelter-related issue. All 311 calls are tracked and the information is shared with the local police precinct and the City’s homeless outreach teams. They will adjust their patrols and outreach work accordingly.
- Constituents can also call our office at (212) 873-0282.
- In the event of an emergency, please call 911 as always.