Lucerne Resident Explains How the Shelter Has Improved His Life, and What He Hopes Locals Understand

Michael Alvarez holds a key to a room in The Lucerne. 

By Marianne Hettinger

Michael Alvarez came to my attention when he posted eloquently on the Facebook group “Upper Westsiders For Safer Streets,” revealing that he was a homeless resident of The Lucerne Hotel.

I met Michael, 34, the next day, outside The Lucerne, and walked with him to have a conversation, which my friend videotaped. Having grown up on the Upper West Side on West 72nd Street, and having been addicted to hard drugs like heroin, crack, and cocaine — using needles since the age of 12 — Michael is grateful to be housed at the Lucerne. For him it is an opportunity, he says, to make a fresh start.

He is a musician/producer/engineer, and says that he’s been clean of drugs for three months and has even inspired a few other Lucerne residents to quit drugs as well. Michael and his counselor are working on getting him permanent housing. He says the biggest problem at The Lucerne is that many people suffering from mental illnesses are housed there, and are not getting the proper services, because addiction hides their root issues.

I think it’s important we hear what this man has to say.

NEWS | 85 comments | permalink
    1. Juan says:

      Very interesting and I truly wish him the best of luck. What happened to his family on 72nd St? Are they still around? Did they kick him out due to his drug use?

    2. Leon says:

      If the Lucerne was full of people like Michael, I think there would be much less debate. As he so eloquently noted, there is a difference between those with drug problems and those with both drug and mental health problems. Those with mental health problems should not be in a residential neighborhood. And they should be getting frequent treatment. Their presence impairs the ability of people like Michael to recover.

      Moving those with a mental health diagnosis to another location with better treatment resources is a simple solution. And an easy opportunity for a politician to look like a hero.

    3. 20 Years in the Neighborhood says:

      Thank you for posting this interview and I hope everyone watches it. It’s so important that we recognize the humanity in everyone, including the residents at the Lucerne who might be further down a dark hole than Michael here appears to be. Choose empathy, generosity, and gratitude, even when (especially when) it’s difficult.

      • Tired of false dichotomies says:

        “Choose empathy” presents a false dichotomy. You can be kind and loving and yet correctly conclude it ill advised to house mentally ill and drug addicts without adequate support – and to boot in a school zone. It’s not like it’s be a hater or support “luxury hotels without a speck of support. There are actually other housing choices that would actually help the mentally ill or drug addicts in question. Supporting this setup is not empathy. It’s foolishness.

        • Ken says:

          @tiredoffalsedichotomies Amen. This is 100% correct in my view. I’m very sympathetic to all of them, but after two rehabs myself (alcohol), I know these people and they need HELP and not just to be stored somewhere. There are no “luxury” hotels north of 61st Street on UWS, but for them these few are surely “cushy.” Enabling cushy rather than enabling therapy is never the right answer, one I had to learn the hard $$$ way.

    4. Valerie says:

      It is helpful to hear a perspective that has thus far not gotten a lot attention.
      But I think we need to be really careful about not falling into a kind of “model minority” trap. Michael is white and a former resident of the UWS. As such, he differs from those homeless residents who have been the main target of racist, classist hostility. I’m wary of those who suddenly develop empathy for the Lucerne residents because now they see someone who looks like them, once lived among them, and seems remarkably thoughtful, eloquent and self-aware. Even men who don’t possess such attributes still deserve and have a right to safety, a warm bed and healthy food to eat.

      • Marianne Hettinger says:

        Valerie, I agree with what you’re saying. Days before I interviewed Michael, I spoke with Gregory Taylor, another resident of the Lucerne (a man of color) who was in bad physical shape and asked guardian Angel Raven Mejias and myself for help. I don’t think I can post a link in the comment section here, but you can find him on my facebook page or google the title:” Homeless resident of the Lucerne Hotel, NYC reaches out to community and Guardian Angel” on youtube. Thank you.

        • Diana S. says:

          I’d like to know more about each man. Gregory Taylor amd Michael desired life? What are their aspirations? Do they both plan on staying in Nyc or would they relocate to another city or state?

      • Ben David says:

        Michael does not deserve our sympathy because he is white? You are turning this complex problem of care/treatments for addicts and mentally ill while maintaining basic public safety into a race issue?? Most fair people would call your comment what it is … racism.

        • Marianne Hettinger says:

          Ben David, exactly, it’s not a race issue! That’s why I responded to Valerie that I had taken video of another homeless resident of the Hotel Lucerne days before who happened to be a man of color which is also on YouTube. And yes, it is important to shed light on different perspectives —before interviewing Michael I didn’t even know that there are people in the Lucerne who truly are taking this as an opportunity to get clean and apply for permanent housing. Michael also makes a point that the drug addicted men with mental illness should not be in the vicinity of a neighborhood with families and children…

        • UWS-er says:

          Except that she didn’t say this.

        • Truetrue says:

          I guess you’re not woke, right Valerie???

        • Jerry says:

          @ Ben David…

          She (Valerie) didn’t say that. I think you need some help with reading comprehension.

        • Evan Bando says:

          Ben, I think Valerie and Marianne make a good point. Michael is “thoughtful, eloquent and self-aware.” Therefore, it is easier to empathize with him as a homeless person. And, truth be told, maybe another part of it is that he is white and was raised on 72nd Street. After all, so much of the animosity towards the men in the Lucerne comes from the subtext of “they don’t belong here.” I believe Valerie was only addressing that aspect of it. There was nothing racist about it. And, Marianne, thank you for the video. Maybe you’ll do more?

          • Marianne Hettinger says:

            Evan Bando, yes I would like to videotape more conversations with people from the hotel. It’s a little tricky, no matter whom I choose, even though I have no political agenda, people will always criticize why do I talk to this person and the other… also the safety factor. By the way, michael IS homeless. He has struggled much, having been drug addicted since he was 12 and homeless for a long time. His family is not in the city anymore. It was his decision alone to quit drugs 3 months ago and kudos to him to have achieved something so difficult already and been an inspiration to others:-)

      • Bob Lamm says:

        Many thanks for Marianne Hettinger for this valuable article and to Valerie for her provocative and insightful reaction. I admire and support both of you for what you’ve written (Valerie in her comment; Ms. Hettinger in both her article and her response to Valerie). This is the Upper West Side I want to live in.

      • Gchris says:

        Thank you…..very well expressed 💕

    5. World Peacenik says:

      So, dear neighbors (you know who you are),

      The boogieman is a musician/producer/engineer, grew up here, has been clean of drugs for three months and has even inspired a few other Lucerne residents to quit drugs as well, and currently working on getting permanent housing.

      And all those comments!

      • Leon says:

        Did you hear a word he said? He said that there are others like him but there are also many others with mental health problems who shouldn’t be here. Those of us who are upset would not be nearly as upset if those with mental health issues weren’t there.

        In your effort to show how woke you are and stir up controversy you aren’t using your brain.

        • World Peacenik says:

          Leon said: “Did you hear a word he said?…
          “In your effort to show how woke you are and stir up controversy you aren’t using your brain.”

          Why so nasty? I was pointing out that this negativity towards almost 300 men is unfounded. Being critical of individuals who are out of line is one thing, but of an entire group, no.

          Are you angry at me too?

          • Leon says:

            If you read the comments here, you would note that most people have an issue with those who are not obeying the law. Many (but not all) would be OK with this situation if laws were being enforced and the hotels were filled with people like this who are truly trying to get better and are capable of doing so. We are doing neither the mentally ill nor people like Michael any favors by using hotels to warehouse the mentally ill.

            So no, we are not generalizing about all of the residents. I apologize for the snark but I am just reflecting your tone.

          • Juan says:

            Are you friends with dannyboy and/or Bruce Bernstein? Your tone and syntax are very similar. Or is this a Batman/Bruce Wayne thing? Has anyone seen you in the same place at the same time?

            • UWS_lifer says:

              It’s funny you say that because I was thinking to myself that this guy, WorldPeaceNick, was the new Bruce Bernstein…or the old one.

              I guess great minds really do think alike.


    6. GregUWS25years says:

      Three points:

      1. Thank you for reporting this. It does add important and unique content to the debate about the UWS shelters

      2. Michael helps the case many of our neighbors make that supporting these men can make positive life changes for them. Its a worthwhile investment

      3. Michael also helps the case many of our neighbors make that some of these men have untreated mental health problems which makes them act anti-social at best or criminal at worst (to be clear, the anecdotal evidence to date is a lot more of the former and maybe none of the latter)

      4. We should be able to seek both goals at the same – I do. Supporters who emphasize one of these two goals have a valid point to make without being accused of being “loonie lefties” or “NIMBY racists”

      5. We (including apparently Michael based on this interview) all want good neighbors. Michael is a good neighbor. If you are not a good neighbor (either by choice or by issues beyond your control) it shouldn’t be controversial for that neighbor to be helped by appropriate city agencies (including the NYPD if necessary) some place more appropriate than an UWS residential neighborhood

      • Ana says:

        This is exactly how I have felt all along. We do not know what percentage of the individuals housed in these area hotels have severe chronic mental health problems. Even if they were constitute a minority of the group, individuals with chronic and comobid mental health and addiction problems require constant supervision and professional support. There is evidence (eye witness accounts, hotel resident statements) to back up the idea that such support and supervision are lacking in the hotels. Homeless individuals deserve empathy and respect, but so do our community’s women, elderly, children, and those who own or work for our local small business. This is such a densely populated neighborhood, and decisions were made without transparency or the input from the community. It is understandable that people are upset. As a community, however, we need to come together to look for solutions that are as empathic as they are effective and rational. The constant antagonizing accomplishes nothing.

    7. This Lucrene Resident is an inspiration in every way. That he is able to address a long-term drug addiction, during a pandemic, and to talk so openly about his experience, is in an of itself, remarkable. But what I’m so struck by, is his insight and compassion for the community of people who he lives with and his ability to articulate their challenges in a way that is deeply humanizing. He is an example of someone who has wrestled with his demons, and come out the other side, with far more wisdom, than he would have otherwise.
      Particularly now, during COVID, when the inequities of our society, and its treatment of those most vulnerable, have become so painfully apparent, this young man gives me HOPE. Hope for his generation and hope for humanity.

    8. Mama Bear says:

      Fill the place up with Michael’s and you won’t hear a peep from.
      Fill it up with the others that he speaks of, stay away from my kids and dammit for bringing down the value of residential properties that elderly have been holding onto as asset for retirement – who are now meeting that milestone sooner than they anticipated.
      It’s hard to change my stance from an interview with the exception to the majority who clearly confirms the concerns of the NIMBYS.

      • World Peacenik says:

        Wealthy people moving to the neighborhood increases the value of residential properties.

        But we must allow people to live here who don’t increase our wealth.

        • Martin says:

          But neither you nor the person interviewed know who is committing these crimes. Michael himself said repeatedly that there are MANY mentally ill housed at the shelter whose behavior he cannot vouch for.

    9. Will says:

      I don’t understand the argument for the UWS being residential as a point as to why a shelter doesn’t belong. Any neighborhood is technically residential so what is it people are really trying to say when they use that word? Is the UWS any more “residential” than the rest of the city and somehow less deserving of urban issues over others? Just get it out on the table what we’re really talking about and stop beating around the bush.

      • Seth says:

        I’ve been wondering this very thing. Sure, the UWS is less commercialized than, say, Midtown, but it’s clearly not the burbs. I also don’t get the “residential” argument.

    10. Shel says:

      A year ago, I would guess that a typical week on the UWS would’ve yielded 0-3 assaults. Last week on the UWS, there were around 20 assaults (much more than 2-3 weeks ago). In the past 4 days, 2 women were randomly attacked in the 72nd street subway, one stabbed. While it is certainly true that nobody can say who is committing these crimes, I find it disingenuous and disheartening to suggest that people are overreacting. Ask the women who were attacked at 72nd street during daylight if they think people are overreacting. In my opinion, people are under-reacting, not overreacting.

      • World Peacenik says:

        People ARE REACTING to the increase in crimes.

        Assigning blame to unrelated people who moved in recently SHOULD BE UNDEREACTED TO.

    11. chris says:

      interesting but why doesn’t wsr do some “real reporting” and do features on an accurate cross section of the people housed there not just a poster boy of what the organization would love for everyone to see? this is a feature of one person who seems to be in the minority here.

    12. Joe Finder says:

      I wih Mr.Alvarez well. But as even he admits, he doesn’t represent all of the men at the lucerne. I live directly across the street and need only to stand outside for 10 mins to see multiple men leaving the lucerne WITHOUT MASKS. I saw one trying to convince a clerk at Duane reade to let him in without one. I see them at the liquor stores(why are addicts being housed across from liquor stores??)And of course on the median across from completely insane “Carl”. I’m a liberal but this has all gone too far and will lead to votes for Trump

      • Black from Brooklyn says:

        Hey fool. Do u listen to what the top Doc said. Masks are needed INDOORS, NOT OUTDOORS

        • TrueTrue says:

          not when there’s a bunch of ppl huddled up spitting droplets on each other.

        • Danielle Remp says:

          “A New York State mandate requires everyone to wear a face covering when outside their home if unable to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others. … You must wear a face covering at all times when riding public transportation, such as the subway, ferry, bus, taxis, and car services.Jul 13, 2020”

 › imm › covid-19-face-covering-faq

        • nycityny says:

          Nobody has said that masks are not needed outdoors. And, in fact, Cuomo’s April order is that anyone who can’t stay distant by at least 6 feet from others should wear a mask. The sidewalks of the UWS make such distancing nearly impossible so everyone should be wearing a mask. Particularly that person talking on their cell phones, spitting out Covid from their mouth, while wearing a chin-strap.

      • leon says:

        I don’t like that they don’t wear masks but I see many others in the neighborhood without masks (including police officers and people in medical scrubs) so it is hard for me to completely fault them for that.

        I do wonder at the logic of them getting fairly high end hotel rooms for free yet they seem to have plenty of money for alcohol, drugs, etc. I have less of an issue with people like Michael who are working keeping their money, but others should have to use their money for rent rather than liquor and drugs.

      • 79th&Amsterdam says:

        If I had three wishes, I’d wish that my veteran neighbors and new Lucerne neighbors, plus the cop on the corner, and Krazy (with a “K”) Karl all wore masks when out In public. Not having to avoid folks on my way to the market would go a long way towards making me feel more comfortable in my neighborhood these days! Let’s stay vigilant and avoid a second wave of Covid-19 in NYC!

    13. Tracie says:

      Now. Make the positive assumption that this fellow is indeed in all of them, somewhere either close to the surface or buried deep down within and wanting to come up and out into polite society. With the single No going on offenders to Special Victims.

    14. charles becker says:

      His story will be the poster child for local council woman Helen Rosenthiel who says these people once lived on the UWS,

      • CrankyPants says:

        If I remember correctly, didn’t “Monk” (the homeless guy who lives in front of Victoria’s Secret, eats out of garbage cans, defecates in between parked cars and urinates in the middle of Broadway) originally come from the neighborhood as well? It is terrifying to see how social services continues to fail him (hello, Mr & Mrs Deblasio & our local elected officials, I’m talking about you) and others like him. These people have enormous problems that will not be solved by simply letting them live however they want to live. They need to be somewhere they can receive the treatment/care they deserve. Then they can come back to “their” UWS–or anywhere else–when they are recovered.

    15. Mark says:

      I notice you haven’t covered the armed robbery last night that ended with the victim being shot. Just profiles of nice homeless people.

    16. Mike says:

      Why does this organization allow people to use and sell drugs at their homeless shelter on the lower east side? Isn’t there such a thing as too much tolerance? This guy is saying he couldn’t get clean because of that…

    17. Linda key says:

      Valerie is correct in what she said. Ive been in NY since 1980. None of the UWS residents complained when homeless were housed in “other” neighborhoods. Now it smacks the UWS residents in the face. And “all of a sudden” its a problem. Go cry to Giulliani and Doomberg. This homeless issue should have been addressed a looong time ago. Well, corona woke you all up.

    18. Peggy Sue says:

      Michael Alvarez sounds like he’s moving in the right direction with his life. He is not unlike other young people who have gone through the drug addiction and is working on staying clean. It’s hard and not everyone makes it. His comment about these men being numbers is disturbing. It would be a lot of work but if the system could place non drug users together at the Lucerne with clients who work, maybe the neighborhood would be more understanding.
      He is a smart man who would be an asset in the field of Social Work. Maybe some day he could do that during the day and play music 🎶 at night.
      Thank you for doing this interview.

    19. mary says:

      thank you for putting a human face on a homeless (temporary) resident at the Lucerne. The hysteria surrounding this issue has blinded usually empathetic “liberal” Westsiders to the human side of housing people in need.

    20. Elizabeth says:

      Interesting story, thank you for this insight.

      I wish him the best of luck. What stood out to me in this article is this quote ‘….(he) has even inspired a few other Lucerne residents to quit drugs as well.’

      Isn’t the whole premise of this that the residents are recovering??? Unless I’ve misinterpreted this entire scenario, I was under the impression that everyone in the shelter was a recovering addict, not an active one.

    21. Lisa says:

      What a lovely guy. My heart breaks for his predicament and I hope he gets housing/etc. before October.

      Also, I hope this clears up what this situation is. I’m a life-long NYer and the biggest problem we have with the homeless is EXACTLY what this gentleman says: DHS does not distinguinch between people with drug problems and people who have drug problems as a result of their mental illness. There MUST be more social services in place in the city. One way to do that is to defund the police so the police are just responding to crime and actual trained social workers are helping people with menta health issues in a more substantive way (vs having one social worker with a 100 person–or more–caseload).

      Again, I wish him–and the other people trying to get a leg up–well and that they end up safe and with a roof over their heads with food to eat.

    22. Senior says:

      Thank you for your interview Michael. I couldn’t agree more. The residents need job training, job counseling and opportunities, mental health support and using the hotels are just playing “musical housing”.
      Aren’t there any defunct military bases, etc. where a person can receive all the needed In one place? Can even teach food preparation and distribute products to Meals on Wheels, etc.
      You’ve overcome so much. I hope you feel good about that.Wishing you success in the future.

    23. ELIZabeth says:

      We have to help these people any way we can. We can do this at the same time deal with the quality of life issues. Maybe this young man and other Lucerne residents can help.

    24. Senior says:

      I wish Michael a successful journey. He’s overcome a lot.
      As a professional I am compelled to point out that addiction is a disease and often people turn to alcohol ad drugs to numb themselves from psychological pain. While the treatment plan might be different, it doesn’t negate that both these populations (addicts and mental illness) require an array of services and help.
      Again, all of these people are not really getting the services they need at these hotels and may exacerbate them.

    25. Emily says:

      Very nice young man, apparently doing his best to stay safe and clean. Great Interview!

    26. Neal Hugh Hurwitz says:

      “He says the biggest problem at The Lucerne is that many people suffering from mental illnesses are housed there, and are not getting the proper services, because addiction hides their root issues.”
      Period. And my own experience with Project Renewal is not good…

    27. Karen says:

      Thank you for this. I wish Michael and all the others in need of support and homes all the best.

    28. UWSGoddess says:

      Great to hear from this smart, compassionate young man. His perspective definitely altered mine. He made two huge and valid points: 1) about how this placement is so beneficial to many residents and 2) about the unserved needs of the mentally ill men in that shelter.

      I am grateful to the interviewer for bringing us this perspective, but her vocabulary is really lacking and her responses to him were odd (Good point? Of course?)

    29. Vikram Gajula says:

      … Woody Allen, my neighbors? :p

      I am glad to see some of you have real hearts and brains. It is very reassuring.

      Be reasonable — this was an emergency measure meant to help all of us.

      We should think more about that kind of attitude.

      We should also be wary of so-called ‘neighbors’ trying to divide us, and gut ourselves.

      Take care and be safe!

    30. DANA IVEY says:

      It’s unfair and unreasonable for us to be upset about violence that has been brought to our neighborhood? People choose to live in this neighborhood because it has been one of the best places to live in the city for many years. Needle Park is 45 or more years ago. I have felt completely safe in the neighborhood for 35 years. Not any more.

    31. Robert Crenshaw says:

      Mental illness is a huge problem we have in NYC, I dare say a huge problem in the USA. Often I pass by Bronx State a former mental institution & another former mental institution along side the tri boro bridge. They were closed down many years ago for improper management/abuse of patients. Laws were changed & warehousing the mentally challenged is inhumane.
      Lesson learned, lets use these large institution like buildings in a humane way & treat these individuals! House them, heal them, treat them , employ them. It can be done humanely, forcibly to those who are a danger to themselves & others. It’s for their own good/health. I must state again, it can/must be done humanely! We can not continue to ignore the mentally ill. Not an easy job but a job that needs to be done! I speak from experience, I’ve worked w/ this population & I have friends an family whom have experienced varying degrees of mental illness. They can be cured & if not cured managed! All it takes is caring loving humans to help one another! Again not a easy task, very challenging but it can be done!

    32. cj berk says:

      To WSR and Marianne Hettinger: Enough! A bomb was dropped on the UWS and one young musician addict does not excuse the stupidity and self-serving objectives of politicians involved. Our lives have become a nightmare. You may think it’s important to hear this story-we do not. It’s an old story. Addiction has been around forever. We want decency back in our neighborhood. The bribery, collusion, and millions of dollars in payoffs make this story yet another attempt to justify the unjustifiable. There’s an odd sickness on the UWS which still allows the unmedicated psychotic booksellers to exist on 72nd st.after all these years. Now a breeding ground for viral spread and yet there they stay. Something has to change here and fast.

      • Will says:

        I think it’s time for you to politely retire to Woodcliff Lake or Katonah where you’d be much happier. The city may be too much and we’re all worried about your blood pressure.

        • Cj berk says:

          Hey Will: Time to expand your horizons. Perhaps a course in urban planning might help you out. “Urban” ….got it? NYU has excellent curriculum.

    33. Mahjg says:

      I am not picking on any one particular comment or individual but notice that many commenters conflate addition and mental illness with being a criminal. While addiction and mental illness may lead a person to criminal behavior, neither is per se a crime.

    34. Black from Brooklyn says:

      This comment section is full of institutionalized racism out in the open & shown in ALL the UWS resident’s posts. While I don’t live there but frequented the area in my college days of shark bar, BBQs etc., there is no change in mentally which is UWS privilege TRUMPS ALL. The poor have NO rights in this neighborhood & most of the responses reflect that

      • sg says:

        Homelessness, mental illness and addiction are very difficult and challenging topics as reflected by the comments being made. These comments do not reflect the false narrative of “institutional racism” which is being peddled as the cause for all wrongs.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        “This comment section is full of institutionalized racism” — no it’s not. Nobody cares about the catchphrases you’ve been indoctrinated with. Bottom line is people of every color do not like criminal activity. In fact, black people in my building that I speak to are WAY harsher than I am when we here about criminal acts occurring in our immediate area. Also, you’re in Brooklyn, not here. I’m here. I don’t think you get to rant about where I live.

    35. Richard says:

      This man’s words need to be heard by everyone in NYC. We are all human. If I had any room I’d invite him live with me.

    36. Naomi says:

      What a great interview you have made Marianne.
      Congrats to Micheal!
      I will make it simple my words is “Please have an open mind!” gratitude that people who lives around there has home and things you needs but them? But YES mental health issues must be addressed it! separate them and support.
      I wish them best of luck!

    37. Melissa Cohen says:

      Great interview. It is good to hear that people are benefitting from being in the hotel. I agree with him it is easy to put blame on others but that is not the way to resolve the issue of homelessness or mental illness. We need to support the programs that provide services to these individuals.

    38. Clyde says:

      this is like reading the comment section of a park slope parent blog lol

      • Black from Brooklyn says:

        EXACTLY!!! Two different neighborhoods with the same mentality which is ‘My Privilege is PARAMOUNT, everyone else needs permission.’

        sg- So because this kid is from the neighborhood & white, most of the posts show the warm & fuzzy feeling of comfort with who you see answering questions. To everyone reading this & watched this interview, did you ever ask yourself, why didn’t she interview a black american in the shelter the same questions? I KNOW WHY! & I’M CURIOUS TO SEE IF ANY WARM & FUZZY UWS RESIDENTS HAVE THE HEART TO TYPE IT… I’LL WAIT

        • Mchael says:

          She did interview a black man before she interview me. If you read the article she kindly interviewed me because I was active on the FB page for upper west siders. A lot of these guys in the shelters don’t know how to use a smart phone let alone face book. Some of them cannot read and most don’t know how to apply for a job and do interviews properly. I’m speaking up because I’m capable of doing so. I didn’t grow up in the upper west side my family did. You ever heard of Newburgh NY. That is where I am from and you wanna talk about poeverty and crime… go to the city of Newburgh and you will be shocked. I used to tutor underprivileged men who couldn’t read and those needing help with studying for a GED. And I’m a high school drop out myself. So although there are many differences between me and these guys there are also many similarities. – Michael Alvarez

    39. Elaine Kenzer says:

      Why aren’t they wearing masks?????? You can ask questions through a mask. She is NOT socially distanced from Michael – three feet is not social distancing. Sorry for Michael and recognize his humanity, but he confirms the fears of so many UWSers: this population is rife with mental illness and drug addiction which by saturation NOW has become the problem of the neighborhood. They are not receiving services. Police have been cut back and reassigned. Di Blasio suggests they might be relocated AFTER an effective vaccine is created. REALLY? THAT could be a very long time

      • Marianne Hettinger says:

        Elaine, we were distanced more than 6 feet and not talking directly to each other. There was no wind blowing. Camera makes everything appear closer.

    40. Balebusta says:

      I am so grateful for this interview and video. I am fully in support of providing safe housing to all — I am even in support of providing this housing in local “luxury” hotels.

      In all the positive comments this interview is receiving, I think some key points are getting lost, that are worth noting.

      1. Michael says there are others there with mental health issues & they should be housed separately. Substance Abuse is a diagnosable mental illness according to the DSM-5 so it is inaccurate to make the distinction between the two.

      2. Michael inaccurately equates mental illness with violence. Statistically, people with mental illness are not anymore likely to be violent. Active drug users are statistically more likely to commit crimes (for money to fund their addiction, many studies on this and publicly available data) and have a higher likelihood for erratic behavior when intoxicated.

      3. I believe that Michael states that he “got clean on his own” due to being in a new environment that allowed him some privacy and distance from people who were selling drugs.

      4. Most importantly, Michael also states that there are others in the building who are “not getting the help they need” and makes it seem that attending groups and treatment is voluntary (minute 5:58 — “Project Renewal is a substance abuse shelter, located on 3rd street which is still operating, they have their own outpatient program and crisis center, which you can sign up and it’s really up to you to go.”

      This is what I have stated many times. People who are addicted to substances should be in treatment. If every Project Renewal shelter resident were partaking of the services as Michael seems to be, I think many concerned upper west sider’s would be responding differently.

      I don’t think in general UWS’ers are against helping others. I don’t think we as a majority lack compassion. I think the majority of us would like to help and support others in a way that is safe for everyone.

    41. Vincent Mcgowan says:

      People are warehoused in our neighborhood hotel’s
      The rooms are not set up for sustained living.
      WS leadership were either asleep at their post or they screwed us for some reason?
      Vote them out of office.

    42. Michael says:

      It’s interesting that this person Michael is getting the housing he needs but has decided that others who need it should not be getting it. Everyone falls into the “those people” trap.

    43. Kimberly says:

      Excellent distinction between reacting and over-reacting, Michael.

      Over-reacting –> bickering in the comments from your privileged UWS perches.

      Reacting –> listening to what these men have to say and, like Michael says, find out about the root cause and do what you can to solve the problem.

      Thanks for these interviews!