Legal Aid Preparing Lawsuit to Stop Transfer of Homeless People

There’s been a new twist in the saga of the homeless shelter at The Lucerne Hotel on 79th Street. Legal Aid, the nonprofit law firm for poor people, says the city’s decision to remove the homeless men has caused a harmful chain reaction. Residents at a hotel called the Harmonia on 31st Street are being moved to another shelter in Brooklyn to make way for the residents of The Lucerne, according to Legal Aid and a report in the Daily News.

Legal Aid says 80% of the residents at the Harmonia who are being moved out are disabled, and they’re being asked to relocate with less than two days notice after some had lived there for years.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pathetic and shortsighted surrender to Upper West Side NIMBYism has unsurprisingly disrupted the lives of other vulnerable New Yorkers at various shelters around New York City, all in the midst of a public health crisis,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “If the City continues to fail at its job of ensuring that these families have the proper accommodations, as prescribed by law, we will file an Article 78 seeking a temporary restraining order in New York State Supreme Court.”

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who has criticized the decision to remove the men, says the challenge gives de Blasio a chance to reverse himself.

“We are coordinating closely with our provider partners, who are doing extraordinary work under challenging circumstances, to ensure all the families who we serve continue to receive the shelter and supports they need as they get back on their feet—while also providing the protections offered by non-congregate units to the single adult individuals who we are relocating,” a Department of Homeless Services spokesman wrote. “No one will be turned out into the streets under any circumstance.”

NEWS | 70 comments | permalink
    1. Mel says:

      Putting aside where one stands on this issue, what gives Helen Rosenthal the right to work against the majority of her constituents? Was she elected to represent us or herself?

      • UWSconstituent says:

        Hear hear!

      • Jack says:

        How does one think he knows what the”majority” thinks?
        Pomposity is alive and well with a very few I guess. Thank God we have leaders like Helen Rosenthal to uphold compassion and civility.

      • Josh says:

        Who says she is working against the majority of her constituents? How do you know how many people in the UWS are NIMBYs and how many are not? Just because it is what you believe does not mean that you are in the majority.

      • Will says:

        She’s doing a fine job representing me, the silent majority don’t support intolerance.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          She represents me as well. I’m proud that Helen is taking a stand like this, and standing up to the intolerance. Enough is enough.

          By the way, the men in the Lucerne are also her constituents, every bit as much as the owners of the $2 million co-ops.

      • RW says:

        The majority welcome helping people experiencing homelessness temporarily .

      • Mel says:

        New York State does not have a recall law. Recall laws are designed to prevent the egregious disregard of constituents. Helen Rosenthal’s cavalier exclamation “This is great news” says it all.

      • Joe R. says:

        I agree with those pointing out that this is not the belief of the majority of her constituents. Most of us support her decision, and have contacted her office to say so. I applaud her for doing what’s right, even in the face of a loud minority clamoring for injustice.

    2. janis says:

      Why is the DHS playing chess with these people? Moving them out of the Harmonia so the Lucerne men can move in. Why not just move the Lucerne men directly to the shelter in Brooklyn?
      It seems unnecessary to move two sets of men, when moving one is less jarring to the people who have lived and are comfortable in the Harmonia.
      Am I missing something?
      Once again, it seems bureaucraps (intentional) have to do things the hard way.

      • Jack says:

        Point well taken. No easy answer.

      • Uws says:

        Probably those men can’t live in the other shelter. There aren’t down on their luck homeless. These are sick addicted men with issues.

      • Kim says:

        The Lucerne men were at a 51st Street hotel until that community complained due to the same issues that were raised here on the UWS. Is the UWS is just supposed to accept the bad behavior that got them moved here? I live near the Belnord Hotel where homeless men have been moved. They have not been an issue at all around 87th and Broadway. Is it the population in the Belnord or the provider who is providing services them that makes that shelter not have such a huge impact? Provide adequate services, supervision and care and you won’t get a NIMBY reaction.

      • UWS Resident says:

        Agreed. This makes no sense. Also, what about hotels that aren’t in residential neighborhoods as options? Airline traffic is 25% of what it was. Airport hotels must be totally empty.

        • UWSdr says:

          I read that over a quarter of these men have jobs…moving them way out of the city might make it very hard for them to get to work, and the whole point is for them to become self supporting. I do think it would be nice if other neighborhoods such as the UES pitched in here, but it may not work to house this population far from the city center…they may just leave and come back in to Manhattan anyway.

      • Burtnor says:

        Moving people OUT of shelters was the point to decrease density in congregate settings. Hotels allow social distancing and better services.

        What is wrong with so many UWSiders here who think the neighborhood belongs only to them and Rosenthal should represent only them? Such selfishness disgraces you and all who live here. There are many here who welcome the chance to do something to help our city and people in need recover — HERE, among us, with our help.

    3. Leon says:

      Assuming the closing of the Lucerne is a done deal, isn’t the logical end game of this moving the Lucerne people to Brooklyn and not impacting the people on 31st St? I don’t understand why there is this game of musical chairs. Who was previously at the place in Brooklyn?

      DeBlasio can’t get out of his own way. He is an absolute nightmare.

      • JJ H20 says:

        Deblasio has always made his disdain for the middle and upper class taxpayers obvious. Moving these men to the UWS was punishment. Under intense disapproval, He comes up with a “plan” that is not meant to be successful. If we wanted success, he would have moved the men to the shelter in Brooklyn.. instead you will have lawsuits, delays and further turmoil. Exactly what he wants. He is not an idiot he is a misguided Marxist fool.

    4. Susan says:

      If Helen Rosenthal was running for re-election, she wouldn’t be representing her opinion but those who live on the UWS and whose votes she would need to remain employed. Since she can’t run again, she could care less about her “constituency”. Now we’re paying her to represent herself.

      • Jay says:


        “If Helen Rosenthal was running for re-election, she wouldn’t be representing her opinion but those who live on the UWS and whose votes she would need to remain employed.”

        How do you know that a couple of hundred of hysterics represent Helen Rosenthal’s constituency?

        You have a mighty poor understanding of the voters on the Upper West Side.

        Irony, at first Helen Rosenthal did demand the removal of the men from the hotels on the UWS.

        • LongtimeNYer says:

          “…a couple of hundred hysterics…” The Upper West Siders for Safer Streets Facebook group has 15,000 members.

          • UWSScientist says:

            Do you know how many of those 15,000 members are residents of the UWS; and specifically Ms Rosenthal’s constituents? Regardless, a 2018 estimate of the Upper West Side puts the population of our neighborhood at approximately 214,744 residents. For the sake of argument let’s assume all 15,000 members of that Facebook group at UWS residents; they would still only represent less than 10% of the population of the neighborhood.

            • Jay says:


              You can confirm all of those FB identities are residents of the UWS?

            • LongtimeNYer says:

              You are obviously not a member of Upper West Siders for Safer Streets. If you were, you would know that the questionnaire that a person fills out to request to join this closed group asks where you live. As far as the total population, what else does 15,000 Upper West Siders agree upon? I’ll bet these 15,000 are the voters, too.

            • Jay says:


              “You are obviously not a member of Upper West Siders for Safer Streets. If you were, you would know that the questionnaire that a person fills out to request to join this closed group asks where you live.”

              Do you really not apprehend that questionnaire does nothing to confirm residency on the Upper West Side of Manhattan?

              I can say I live anywhere when filling out such a form, but that’s meaningless.

    5. Anne says:

      Curiouser and curiouser…..there is so much more going on here. Are these homeless drug and alcohol addicted men or “families”?
      It was finally looking like things were going to get better on the streets of the UWS.

    6. Steven says:

      Well here we go again with another waste of 10’s of thousands of dollars going into law firm pockets.

      Wonder what “ Legal Aid” could actually be doing to actually help these people with all the money they’re going to piss away with this lawsuit that they know they will never win.

      What a waste just to make some political statement.

      If you have ever donated to “Legal Aid fund” you can see where your money is going. Down a rat hole.

    7. Jack says:

      Thank You Ms. Rosenthal and Legal Aid for standing up for the unfortunate citizens of NYC who need someone to care. And shame on those callous self-important few who have no empathy for the ones left behind. This suppressed immunity to empathy and brotherly love stirred up by the POTUS has spread it seems. These people are just that, people. If you have a beating heart open it.

    8. UWS family says:


    9. RJ says:

      So none of this makes sense! Why are the people at the Harmonia being disrupted? If there’s an available shelter in Brooklyn, why aren’t the men at the Lucerne being placed there?? This whole Situation with the homeless In the 3 UWS hotels has been a fiasco from day one. In a neighborhood filled with schools and playgrounds, why weren’t homeless families brought to the hotels instead of type two and type three registered sex offenders and men with drug addictions?

      • BR says:

        My guess is, the de Blasio administration has realized their mistake in placing these men in the wrong place and would prefer to place them in an area that can better absorb there presence for a longer perios of time. Also, they prefer to tell Brooklnites that the homeless in their hood are handicapped.

    10. ST says:

      Helen’s reign of terror can’t end soon enough.

    11. Tax paying UWS resident says:

      Let’s not forget that the men were moved into Lucerne from yet another hotel in Hell’s Kitchen after they created many problems in that neighborhood. This is what happens when inept politicians and DHS have no plan. Their only plans appears to be to dump these people into some unsuspecting neighborhood in the middle of the night with no notice, as they did on the UWS, and hope that nobody will complain.

    12. blacklikeu says:

      i hear the Pierre is empty.
      Why not move the homeless from the UWS there?

    13. Correction says:

      She can’t do that… The lawsuit that she thinks she’s going to put through by the legal aid Society only pertains only to the Harmonia Hotel on East 31 Street, removing certain homeless family’s or individuals at this hotel and moving them into another hotels to make room for the men coming from the Lucerne hotel on West 79 Street.

    14. Steven says:

      Per the lyrics from Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin… “It goes on and on and on and on”

      Something tells me this will be a never-ending saga.

    15. Davud says:

      For the sake of the children ant the two schools in the neighborhood who have to face on a daily basis these drug addicts we hope they will be removed

    16. Teri says:

      How very sad this comment made me, “ These are sick addicted men with issues.” Let’s hope the tables don’t ever turn on all those who wish to push these people out just so they don’t have to look at them. I’m a single parent and healthcare worker on the UWS. I’ve used this situation to teach my kids about the inequities in the world and kindness; while also teaching them about mental illness, addiction, and the need to be cautious and aware of their surroundings. If we want the world to be a better place, it truly has to start with each of us.

      • Burtnor says:

        Thank you, Teri, for your comment and the example you set for your children. This entire NIMBY spectacle debases our community.

    17. UWShopeful says:

      At some point Rosenthal and our other local politicians need to change the focus from where are we going to house the residents of the Lucerne to how we are going to keep more local businesses from closing, stop the flood of people who are leaving the city, getting kids back to school safely, the growing number of empty storefronts, adherence to masks and social distancing protocols, and curbing the spike in gun violence and other crimes. The housing of these men is certainly something that deserves attention from the City, but we are the middle of a pandemic and a potential economic crisis that in this City that has not been seen in 100 years and we need to start focusing on other issues with the same vigor as this one.

    18. Brenda says:

      Affordable Housing Now

      Affordable, Accessible & Adequate Mental Health Services Now

      That is all

      • forget it says:

        Yeah I will keep banging this drum too. All these do gooders are so upset about housing the homeless yet have turned a blind eye for years on the rising rents that have priced hard working people making less than 100k out of the neighborhood. All the while complaining about the closing restaurants and stores. Sure Amazon is part of that but a bigger part is the fact that families can’t afford to live here and they are the ones that support those businesses.

        Good luck, UWS is self-destructing on so many different levels.

    19. LongtimeNYer says:

      Helen Rosenthal absolutely does not reflect the wishes of her constituents. She is leaving office because of term limits and has no chance of being elected to public office again.

    20. BuddyGuy says:

      The misconception here is that there aren’t already a large number of shelters and homeless housed in this district. Based on data from September 2019, the UWS ranks 20 of 59 community districts for both individuals sheltered in the district and the share of citywide total shelter population.

      • lynn says:

        The misconception is that there ‘are’ or they’re ‘aren’t” already a large number of shelters in this area? The issue is that there are 3 mens shelters in the same neighborhood, and this isn’t even counting the women’s shelter’s.

      • charles becker says:

        It is now September 2020. With hundreds if not thousands recently placed in the UWS those number are completely out of date.

        • BuddyGuy says:

          Apparently my wording here is not coming through.

          I’m saying the UWS is already doing its fair share and is hardly similar to a place like the UES. With all the NIMBY talk, it seems like many people don’t realize this.

    21. charles becker says:

      I recently read that at a recent community board meeting most of the supporters of the hotel resident did not live on the UWS.

      For the sake of full disclosures shouldn’t posters reveal if they live on the UWS and how many blocks away from these hotels they live.

      • Upper West Side Teacher and Resident says:

        I live five blocks from the Lucerne and ahve been in the neighborhood for many years. There are a lot of homeless people out and about, for sure. Other than asking me for money, or startling me with some shouting, no one has caused me any problems. We are in the middle of an emergency. Our values are being tested. Given the choice between standing with these homeless men or standing with the people who want them gone, I choose to stand with those whose need is greater.

        That’s the homeless dudes, just so we are clear.

      • alsoaUWSer says:

        I live on the UWS close to the hotel and I support the right of shelter residents to stay there. Glad Rosenthal is taking a stand against the proto-fascists here who aren’t capable of treating homeless shelter residents as human beings. It wasn’t the shelter residents who were threatening to smear dog feces on park benches, it was members of *that* facebook group. I know who I’d rather have as my neighbors.

    22. Robert O Johnson says:

      Good to hear this. The rich upper wealthy siders are causing homeless families to be removed from the shelter they want to move the Lucerne men to. All because of these people who have money (some have donated $5000) to the gofund me they setup) don’t want this in their backyard.

    23. Marti Cassidy says:

      I hope you are all so proud of yourselves. If you don’t like living near homeless you should move away. We really need a 10% surcharge on rents, association fees, and mortgages to provide decent housing for those on the street. There are many vacant apartments now and they could be distributed equally amongst us to avoid the flop hotel concentrations in one particular area.

      • Boris says:

        There are some affordable sociology and basic economics classes you should take to improve your understanding of how the real world works.

      • Tam says:

        Marti, Social Justice WARRIOR – why not give all of your income to them?

        I expect the elected officials to do what is right with the nearly 43% of taxes I pay already. Given that they can’t do that, I’m hardly willing to give any more of my hard earned money to a festering hole of a problem

    24. Anne says:

      I think people are misinterpreting NIMBY as a universally bad thing. Sorry, but I don’t want urinating, defecating, masturbating mentally ill men encamped on the sidewalk in my neighborhood. I work very hard, am fortunate to have a job, and I also deserve to be able to live in a clean and peaceful safe neighborhood. Yeah, NIMBY…

      • Mel says:

        Totally agree.

        • Ellen Maguire says:

          I don’t either. And I like many people championing for the homeless to stay at the Lucerne, I actually live just a few blocks from there and have seem my quality of life take a nosedive since they moved in.

      • TrueTrue says:

        Also, as BG notes above, there are already plenty of shelters on the UWS. This is not the UES. NIMBY just fits the narrative…

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        reply to Anne:

        that’s A very nice way to tar all the residents of the Lucerne with a broad, and inaccurate, brush. And by the way, the men and women encamped on the sidewalks are street homeless and, by definition, not in the Lucerne.

    25. Joan says:

      Moving disabled homeless from their long time shelter is not the answer. It is cruel. Neither is keeping 300 men with drug addiction problems in the Lucerne. Those with serious issues should be moved where there is less dense population. There are 400 homeless in other UWS hotels in a small area already who do not seem to be creating problems. Our elected officials seem incapable of using common sense to cause the least disruption and harm to homeless people’s lives. UWS residents have serious safety concerns and they should be listened to without tearing the community apart or name calling. Very disappointed in how this is being handled.

    26. Andrew says:

      I thought that the contract to house the homeless at the lucerne runs out in october and the owner is not renewing. so we are just going to leave them there for an additional month and then move them?

    27. biffmeister says:

      The entire city is awash in garbage, there are encampments up and down Broadway, crime is out of control and we have vagrants, junkies and mental patients roaming the streets at will. Duane Reades, CVS and Rite-Aids have given up on stopping shop-lifters because the cops can’t do anything. People are moving out of the city at record rates. Yet we still have some masochists who deny the deterioration in the quality of life in NYC. It’s mind-boggling how tone deaf they are to the reality on the streets.

      • New York Strong 💪 says:

        This epidemic this was expected actually it was expected to be worse and deadly. People who are moving out unfortunately manny lost there jobs and frighten. But New York City will get through this. New York City has gone through many difficult times in it’s life and will survive this too.
        Whoever leaves there will always be someone to replace them.

    28. Laura Jervis says:

      The administration is guilty of pandering to wealthy white Westsiders which is indeed creating a chain reaction to dislodge adults with disabilities from the Harmonia.
      The Mayor has lost his moral compass! He better find it before people die.

      Support Legal Aid’s quest for justice with financial contributions!

      • lynn says:

        I just read another article about the residents of the Harmonia and I’m at a loss for words. “If’ the men at the Lucerne are going to be relocated then why weren’t they designated to move directly to the shelter in Brooklyn? Some of the Harmonia residents are disabled, and others have children and they’re working while waiting for permanent homes, and now they’re being bused to random locations throughout the boroughs (not only Brooklyn). One woman has already reported that she can’t function in the new facility because of her disability. If they’re already being moved then what is the point of the reversal or a new lawsuit?

    29. Steven says:

      I’m confused by so many different conflicting stories everywhere. Long story short, are the residents at the Lucern still moving out this weekend & next or is that on hold for now, anyone know?

    30. Brenda Williams says:

      I am disabled and was moved out of harmonia with less than 12 hours notice. Can someone from the legal aid society contact me cause I can tell you a thing or two about what is going on there.

    31. Donna James says:

      Finally someone Like Hellen Rosenthal isn’t afraid of establishing Leadership. This is what Leadership is about, standing up for what’s right, rather than what seems popular and wrong. Not letting the crowd or mob rule with impunity, but allowing peaceful order, and tolerance in society to prevail.