Starting this weekend, the city will begin moving men out of The Lucerne, the hotel on 79th Street that had been used as a homeless shelter since late July. The move comes after a backlash that had split the neighborhood in recent weeks.
The men will be moved out this weekend and next week, according to the Department of Homeless Services. They’ll be moved to other shelters that allow for social distancing instead of the kind of close-packed shelters they came from in the East Village.
“As we have said, our use of commercial hotels to combat COVID is temporary,” a DHS spokesperson wrote, and the city will “continually review and streamline the footprint of our shelter locations.” With that in mind, the city is “beginning to relocate individuals from several commercial hotel locations to alternative non-congregate shelter locations, where we can continue to implement social distancing and provide isolation.”
The spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about whether the move was driven by neighborhood complaints.
The Lucerne was used to house 283 men, many of whom were recovering from substance abuse problems. Some neighbors said the arrival of the men led to a deterioration in the quality of life in the immediate area.
A Facebook group that led a movement against the shelters attracted more than 10,000 members and led to the establishment of a nonprofit created to start a legal and public relations campaign pointing out the flaws in the city’s strategy.
Another group pushed back against the opponents, arguing that Upper West Siders should welcome the men rather than push them away. Some of the men in the hotel had said they were grateful to be there because they felt safer than in the prior shelter. The men had previously been moved from a midtown hotel after complaints there.
There are still three other hotels in the neighborhood being used as shelters. In the statement, the Department of Homeless Services said that at least one local hotel, the Belleclaire on Broadway and 77th, will be on a priority list to stop being a homeless shelter when it’s safe to remove the residents.
“We’re watching our health indicators closely and working with DOHMH to determine when and how clients can be safely relocated back to shelters from the temporary emergency hotel relocation sites, and we’ll inform communities when our City is ready to take that step, prioritizing locations like the Belleclaire and others around the city,” DHS said.