By Carol Tannenhauser
At a packed press conference and rally on Wednesday morning in front of The Lucerne hotel on West 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, potential 2021 mayoral candidate Maya Wiley said the men experiencing homelessness who are currently living there “must stay put.”
The Lucerne is becoming an early test for Democratic candidates looking to hold citywide office. The day before, mayoral hopeful Comptroller Scott Stringer took a similar position, saying in a statement that “I am opposed to moving the men currently residing at The Lucerne,” adding that he might support another site “if the mayor, in good faith, identifies a location that would better serve these 283 men.”
The situation at the hotel-turned-temporary-homeless-shelter divided the community almost as soon as the men moved in in late July — with two days notice from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) — purportedly to protect them from catching and spreading COVID-19 in crowded “congregate” shelters. Two other hotels in near proximity — the Belleclaire and Belnord — had already been converted to shelters only weeks before.
The Lucerne was the tipping point for many locals, who said they noticed an uptick in open drug use, harassment and quality of life crimes like public urination. The mayor said he visited the site and found conditions there “not acceptable,” prompting his decision on September 7 to move the men to other spots in the city.
But the pushback against the pushback has been equally intense, with a group called the UWS Open Hearts Initiative calling the mayor’s decision an “injustice” and demanding that the men remain at The Lucerne. One thousand community residents signed a letter to the mayor, who then changed his mind again, announcing on Monday that he was pausing all activity at The Lucerne while the situation was being reviewed.
Organized by the UWS Open Hearts Initiative, Wednesday morning’s gathering had the feeling of a celebration — and pep rally.
It was attended by equal parts press, neighborhood supporters, and residents of The Lucerne. Among the speakers were City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal and representatives from the Legal Aid Society, the Open Hearts Initiative, and the All Street Journal.
When asked if she was running for mayor, Wiley deferred to the occasion. “I am here standing with the residents,” she said. “I have launched nothing. I’m here because of the residents and the community leaders who are fighting to keep this shelter, which is so important to the lives of New Yorkers — cause we’re all New Yorkers — functioning in a way that’s effective for the residents and that also addresses any concerns the community might have. That’s a legitimate conversation to have. My understanding is that those concerns are being addressed.”
A resident of The Lucerne spoke. Known as Da Homeless Hero, he has emerged as a spokesperson and advocate for the other residents — and a prolific WSR commenter.
“I commend all the members of this community, including those who have spoken up to identify certain issues that have been apparent since we arrived,” he said. “By identifying those issues, we can check ourselves, and at the same time, Project Renewal (the nonprofit running the shelter) has stepped up to provide the services we need, here on site, as well as recreational and therapeutic activities. There’s a lot that’s being done to make sure the community remains a good community, and that those of us who are now in the community can be productive members while we remain here.”
Excellent. It’s about time for a woman Mayor. And one who speaks truth to unearned privilege.
“Unearned privilege”. Seriously? Some of us worked our butts off all our lives to be able to afford to live in neighborhoods like the UWS.
And now we have to put up with people like you who think we didn’t earn anything in our lives? I think most of here on the UWS earned the right to live in a clean and safe neighborhood!
unearned privilege? I am a brown immigrant that came here with 2 bags 8 years ago and worked my ass off in x-ray labs, chemical labs till 5 am! I worked hard and deprived myself of fun so i can financially be able to live in a safe and nice neighborhood ad yet you have the audacity to leave a comment like that? how about all these people that claim they are suppressed by privileged people get their lazy bodies off of the couch and work harder?
Many commenters here are missing something: Some people work extremely hard, (2 jobs, all their lives, sacrificing, etc.) and do not earn enough to live within 90 minutes of their job, or to give their family a decent home. For others, hard work actually gets them somewhere. That’s where the privilege comes in. They are taught, or they have the resources to teach themselves, or they already possess, the keys that get them in the doors. Not everyone has that.
It is about time to have a competent mayor not a symbolic figure…there is no such thing as right time for a women mayor…as a woman i think it is insulting…just like when Biden said he is gonna nominate a woman as VP. Labeling gender rather than ability as a campion point is just opposite of gender equalization!
Who do you think you are with that “unearned privilege” comment?
Yes to a woman as mayor, and yes to unearned–let’s call it entitlement.
Unearned privilege? What an imbecilic comment. How about Paying for your own education, pulling yourself out of poverty and using hard work to succeed?
People claim oppressed by others “privilege” are just railing against those who have worked to achieve things they cant obtain because of their laziness. Stop blaming others for your inadequate nature
The next mayor is going to have a huge job to do. I don’t care if they are white, black, Indian, man, woman, heterosexual, homosexual, rich, poor, tall, short, fat, skinny.
Stop with the ridiculous identity politics. This obsessive focus is what energizes Trump’s lunatic base. I hate him and his followers with a passion but in this case, I can kind of see their point.
Yes, minority groups are frequently treated horribly in this country. And that is a huge problem. But this constant whining that we need a certain type of person to do the job and that all rich people are horrible is not constructive.
Unearned privilege? Sounds like you are stereotyping everyone. I’ve worked extremely hard my whole life. There is no bigger insult to people that do the right thing, make sacrifices, and bust their ass than to call it “unearned”. Who are you to say such a thing?
I’m African American/heterosexual. In my workplace, my sexual orientation has always given privilege b/c my straight colleagues are more comfortable with straight ppl. Fact.The past 15yrs has meant personal/professional access and opportunities before my LGBTQ colleagues who are just as educated,capable and hard working as me.That’s unearned privilege which still exists.
“unearned privilege”? What are you talking about?? I worked myself out of poverty to live in this neighborhood–I had nothing given to me.
All these initiatives are super disingenious–if you really carred about these men you’d FIGHT tooth and nail to have them removed and properly placed where they could received medical/nutritional and psychological help so they may reintegrate themselves into society.
Fighting to give them a few more weeks in a 5 star hotel is hardly the answer.
The situation unfolding at/about the Lucerne speaks volumes about the dysfunction in city government and the complete lack of strategy to address the ever-growing problems of surging homelessness, dysfunction at DHS, and the unwillingness of politicians to actually fix any of the problems around them.
“I’m here because of the residents and the community leaders who are fighting to keep this shelter.”
Last I heard the Lucerne is a hotel, and an upscale one. It is not a shelter.
And at $175.00 per person, per day/night, it costs $50,225 just for the rooms, no food or anything else included.
There has got to be a better way to spend the tax payers money, while taking good care of the homeless population, something we must take seriously, once and for all.
Why would single man making less than $50,000 ever choose to work over getting this deal?
Asked in good faith!
Because the stigma of poverty and homelessness is something you never want to be associated with. The disgust and revulsion with which other humans would look upon you. Because you’d become a political pawn with no security for where you might end up. Because shelters are dangerous AF and many homeless live on the street because of the violence of shelters. Because you would likely suffer from agonizing mental illness that resulted in homelessness.
A serious question:
You’re assuming that these are regularly employed people being given housing.
And that assumption is wrong, even if some of them were employed mostly steadily prior to the corona virus.
Beautiful. Making things easy for me – ‘not-to-vot-for’ checklist. Next!
One other thing would be nice to do – pass a recall law so those politicians who are term limited still care about their constituents and not about upcoming gigs. Call it a Helen law!
Well she might be a good candidate for that NYC budget cut. Apparently she makes $148,000 a year which was increased from $112,500 in 2016. This sounds like a huge increase. And all we get is someone holding posters in front of the Lucerne.
Furlough Helen Rosenthal.
You’re assuming a majority of Helen Rosenthal’s constituents want the men kicked out of the Lucerne.
Yes that’s true – most of Helen’s constituents DO want the men moved to proper facilities with better services. 15000+ people from the community want that…
No. I’m assuming that most of her constituents want her kicked out of the office.
Why the UWS have to bear al this harm? Homeless should go to other areas of the city. Who is going to compensate us for the decrease in real estate prices?!
Roberto Balmore Zapote:
What’s this with the implication that all of the homeless in NYC have been moved to the UWS?
Yeah, that’s exactly what posted.
Helen’s law. I like that. She is the most disingenuous politician I have seen in a while. Guarantee that her advocacy would be for the transfer of people out of the neighborhood if she was running for re-election. So glad she will have no job soon.
It’s never too early to grandstand for the next election.
Finally A politician who fights for Homeless rights! i’m with Wiley – More Homeless should be brought here not sent away! I’m so tired of people complaining about the needles on the UWS that’s because we need more needle exchanges and methadone clinics!!
Helen Rosenthal is a lame duck. Maja Wiley appears to be a carpetbagger and opportunist. I suggest she goes and talks to the East Side which only has sixty shelter beds rather than lecture us.
and the East Side seems to get the women and children…
Aren’t the residents of the Upper West Side also residents? With whom Maya Wiley apparently does not stand. We residents will remember this at the next mayoral election.
15,000 strong and growing – we will all remember not to vote for Maya Wiley!
Well, that’s virtuous, to “stand with the residents”, but not credibly addressing the legitimate concerns of the UWS and of the local businesses for a secure, reasonably clean, non-noisy and drug-free environment will, in the long run, do nothing for the homeless because the situation is not sustainable without addressing those concerns. Stoking the fires of NIMBY won’t help anyone, and forcing UWS people, who are generally of good will on this subject, to accept an unacceptable situation will no doubt backfire in the long run.
While the “Open Hearts” contingent feel those who disagree with them are privileged and they stand on higher moral ground, allow me to add a bit of reality to that scenario. I’ve lived on the UWS for nearly 50 years, working that time entirely in the non profit sector, mostly helping underserved kids graduate HS & go on to college. So I’m not exactly “privileged”. Given that, I don’t believe housing people with massive, multiple needs in an expensive boutique hotel serves them, the cash-strapped city and hard working tax payers like myself.
I wonder how things are going at MW’s neighborhood??
Is MW also missing from cable news because she is capitalizing on other people’s troubles ?
We know how things are going at HR’s neighborhood. I hear not so good. HR has also turned the Lucern into her own political campaign stop. I wonder if they will be running together ??
Well that was quick – Myra Wiley has lost my vote, as has the hapless Scott Stringer. NYC can not afford more of this hyper-liberal agenda which is sending us the way of SFO.
MW has lost my vote too. Hypocrisy never works. MW unlike HR should have started her campaign helping to fix the many problems faced by people in her neighborhood. One way will be to look into how homeless shelters in her neighborhood are doing and reporting how they are helping the people they serve and letting us know about the impact they have on her family and the community at large.
OMG! I cannot believe that as a lifetime New Yorker and registered Democrat, I will actually vote for a Republican Mayor of NYC in 2021 if this keeps up! Um, actually, wait a minute, I did vote Republican against DeBlasio for all the good that did given his administration’s “bought” second term. I think all these politicians pandering to the beyond liberal, uninformed and inexperienced voter should just take in these men themselves and leave us the f$&@ alone.
OR they can just watch as a huge tax base, fed up of being treated like they’re the criminals for wanting a safe neighborhood leave.
Congrats Bill, Helen, Scott, and now these other mayoral wannabes for turning NY into Detroit or Compton or any number of American cities lost to crime and poverty.
Well said…totally agree. Sadly we may have to let the UWS deteriorate further, turn into a complete slum, then recover. It won’t happen until DeBlasio, both Rosenthals et al go. Hotels as shelters on our taxes doesn’t make sense on any level. Being unable to walk down my street without fear and loathing also doesn’t make sense. We won’t survive this way. Maya Wiley please go! Claim your 5 minutes elsewhere.
Re: “Sadly we may have to let the UWS deteriorate further, turn into a complete slum, then recover”
Doesn’t THAT recall M. Trumph’s latest:
Again repeating something from “Fox and Friends”, he’s pushing “Herd Immunity”*, a crackpot idea that, instead of fighting Covid19, we should just let everyone catch it, for the survivors will then develop antibodies and soon the virus “will just go away”
*embarrassingly, because M.Trumph knows so little, he at first called it “Herd Mentality”, which provided a much-needed giggle to the MSNBC/CNN types.
I was waiting for a no-connection-whatsoever invocation of Trump bashing. Thank you!
To “Da homeless hero”, thank you for telling us what’s what. I live right down the street. We are both new yorkers and I hope we’ll keep fighting for your right to stay at the Lucerne with all the services you need til you’re able to have your own home.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that very much and look forward to your continued support. This is a great community and the outpouring of support has done a lot to show that while some may have disdain for the homeless there are those who embrace us and that is a good thing.
At this rate he’ll never have a home of his own. Why should he?
He’s got a 5 stars hotel room for free, and a bunch of beautiful souls fighting for his right to stay this way forever.
Actually I’m more interested in an apartment that’s being prepared for me in a beautifully newly built building that has supportive services. I’ve been talking alot about this because this is a great way to have those of us transitioning out of the shelter into stable homes and eliminating chronic homelessness. Supportive housing is definitely prefered as opposed to staying in a hotel. However, the pandemic delayed things and I do feel more protected in this setting that in the shelter I came from.
Da Homeless Hero: your explanation of why staying in the hotel at this present time with the added stress of the pandemic is preferred before you get housing, makes much sense. Thank you for staying calm and factual in this fire storm of emotions and for seeing both sides how the neighborhood was not told about the homeless men being placed at the Lucerne. You are not only a wonderful advocate but a peacemaker.
Marti Cassidy, when it comes to the UWS community, there is no such thing as “unearned privilege.” Hard work to better oneself has always been the UWS way. Forgive me if I don’t believe luxury hotels should be turned into shelters, with the city and hotel owners profiting from taxpayer funds. Want to talk about unearned privilege? Talk about the politicians, property owners and the city!!!
Well now I know exactly who I’m NOT voting for! That was easy!
NYC doesn’t need anymore weak mayors. Koch, Dinkins, and now, De Blasio each ran NYC into the ground during their terms as Mayor. Riots, looting, increased vandalism, murder rates and violent crimes, homeless people camping out anywhere they choose while using our sidewalks like their personal bathrooms, some of them guzzling alcohol and shooting up drugs in plain view of children and hard working people who are just trying to get to work. People are fleeing NY in droves. NYC is burning while De Blasio is busy painting slogans on the street and defunding the police. Voting in another weak Democrat, mayor or governor, will be the final nail on the coffin for this once great city. Wake up New Yorkers!
I’m not president of Stringer’s fan club but please read the full release. He is not necessarily advocating for keeping the Lucerne residents there. He is saying that moving them to the midtown hotel and then making all of those people move makes no sense. This is somewhat different.
I saw him speak early in this situation and I know that he was very upset that because of the pandemic, his office had no input on this process, particularly in terms of negotiating the costs, which he thought were ridiculous. If the city was paying half as much per room, I think many would be at least slightly less upset about the situation.
any senior elected official who blames covid in the manner you describe is finding excuses. Many Ordinary folks had to telework on a shoestring since day 1 with kids at home climbing the walls. If we could manage so could he. If he was too incompetent to stay abreast “due to covid”, why should we vote him to even higher managerial role with greater responsibility ?
I agree with the fact that so many were left out of the intitial planning and discussion. I spoke about this and Stringer is right about that. So much money is wasted on these rash decisions. Moving forward I hope they learn from this and next involve other elected officials, community leaders, and those of us who residents.
Could you answer a few questions I have? For those in the hotel who have a long road to recovery due to drug addiction and mental illness which makes it impossible for them to work now, what services exactly are they receiving at the hotel? how many hours per day/week? Can you stay in your room for the day if you wish? How do the level of services compare to when you are in a shelter? And finally are you ever scared by those exhibiting psychotic behavior? Wouldn’t you prefer to be housed with those who are working or on the road to recovery? Thanking you in advance for answering my questions. I’m trying to understand the day to day stuff.
Keep the Harmonia residents , some disabled, at their 31 St. location . Instead transfer the Lucerne occupants to the Brooklyn shelter where the Harmonia residents were supposed to go. If need be update the Brooklyn shelter to accommodate the Lucerne occupants.
So very embarrassing to live here. In a neighborhood that likes to pose as liberal, but challenged just a bit? Runs crying to the conservatives to save them. Pathetic and very, very telling.
Challenged just a bit? Have you not heard about people sleeping in the streets, panhandling for money, screaming at pedestrians, hitting people at outdoor restaurants, stabbing women at subway stops, breaking into cars, stealing bikes, women getting attacked under scaffoldings, people getting pushed into subway platforms, teen gangs attacking the elderly in Riverside Park, sex offenders hanging around playgrounds, people overdosing near schools, people with drug addiction and mental health problems living in hotels within blocks of each other and within blocks of schools ? If you haven’t had a chance to walk around lately or even in the last couple of years at minimum, I ask you to please kindly read the crime reports for the uws or get apps that can show you where crimes are being committed.
Open drug use, public defecation, public sexual acts, harassment and violent encounters with troubled homeless people, are what you consider a bit of a challenge?
If this is how liberal mayors like De Blasio and his useless city council are going to continue running this city, then it’s high time for Conservative leaders to step in and clean up the mess these so-called liberal/progressives have made of NYC.
Afterwards, if you still too embarrassed to live in a safe, clean, drug free neighborhood, feel free to move to San Francisco. I’m sure you will feel much more at home there.
Nothing you’re complaining about is new since 2014.
If you walk around the uws one of the safest stops in terms of money panhandling and mentally disturbed individuals shouting at you is the corner of 80th at Zabars. Those guys have been there for years possibly since 2014, and they won’t hurt you. Don’t, however, let that sense of safety betray you if you are planning to walk around 81st and Amsterdam, just yesterday at that corner a man clearly intoxicated threw a glass bottle up in the air, and the bottle exploded feet away from teens passing by. This guy chased the kids shouting obscenities until they were able to get away. These experiences can be traumatizing even if you think you are used to them and they can still make you want to go home and do something about it.
Agree, it was very telling that that group thought was a nice idea to hire Randy Mastro, Rudy’s attack dog, to represent them. Great choice.
I couldn’t get to the press conference till it was mostly over, but I did get to hear Maya Wiley. She was terrific, very impressive. As was Da Homeless Hero.
Thank you very much and we appreciate your support and your presence.
I guess we are both embarrassed to live here but for completely different reasons….
If HHS provided services for addicts and the mentally ill at the Lucerne, they wouldn’t need to move them. Some homeless need help overcoming addictions and disabilities. Bruce Kayton (Radical Walking Tours of NYC) notes that “in the 1980s the Horn family was notorious … charged the city outrageous rates to house the homeless in various substandard hotels around the city. They also owned the Esmor Correctional Services Corporation, a private-prison company with a long record of violations and a bribery scandal with New York City politicians.” Who is benefitting from current policies?
The more I see far a left push, the more I think “Giuliani is loving this.” And I’m not a Giuliani fan but I predict a mayoral race that is going to show far more division than in previous elections.
Save us, Curtis!
At this point I’d be more impressed if she stood on the southside Broadway median at 79 St and stopped the men who hang out there from urinating on the trees (which I inadvertently witnessed last Friday in the middle of the day). It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hit by a car because they were forced to walk in the street to avoid walking through the median.
This cannot continue. The city needs a complete change, and a move away from the current administration. They’ve had their chance and caused major problems for this city. Maya Wiley does not represent that change.
We need a tough, straight forward mayor. Sometimes this comes in the form of a direct, abrasive personality, but it is necessary. We cannot continue this way.
So true Chicken Skin! I’m with you 100%. The UWS has been a misnomer for a very long time. The real acronym is ULS. L for left. So reassuring however to see the liberal thinking in the minority here.
Oh, Maya! I am so sorry you are beginning your possible run for Mayor by a taking side and not listening to both, not mediating, nor even living here each and every day with intense, reality-based fears many residents do. I hope you can see a bigger picture than your former boss, deB, but I am no longer optimistic.
My comment never showed up
I wonder if the reason is that I stand with real UWS hard working people ,not the liberal i who want to destroy NY
It was 152 words long. The limit is 100.
Take care of drug addicts pedophiles and drunks….forget about working people
Many of the people who live on the upper west side are hard-working middle class residents. I am a lifelong UWS resident and Democrat who attended public school and worked since I was 14. Don’t stereotype us. This kind of attitude is perpetuating the divisiveness that exists at the national level.
We need a mayor, regardless of race and gender, who is not part of DiBlasio’s cabal. He has effectively destroyed a city that was left to him in excellent condition. Now you can’t walk the streets early morning or late evening. You can’t walk the sidewalks without dodging trash. And as the city strives to come back, and you try to support outdoor dining, you can’t do that without being harassed by wandering, aggressive homeless.
I’m 6 feet and a former football offensive lineman. Today a man my size came right up to me, 6 inches from my face and said “DO YOU HAVE A DOLLAR?”. I had an adrenaline rush, ready for something not good to happen next, but as a New Yorker, I did not engage, and just stared straight ahead and kept walking. I cannot imagine being a 5″4 female dealing with this situation.
The Lucerne was meant as a temporary solution for a serious situation generated by the Covid crisis. As politicians, aren’t you meant to unify and solve for the betterment of your community? You are going to polarize this neighborhood vs engaging in the development of a collective solution.
Right now, Dianne Morales is the best.
The Lucerne Hotel is exactly that…a hotel! The men need to moved out. A lot of them have problems larger than can be addressed adequately at that location. As a result the neighborhood has seen an increase in harassment, littering and loitering, and use of drugs and exhibition of unacceptable behavior by some of the men. The city clearly did not have a plan in place when they first put the men there and very little has changed since their arrival.
I know who I won’t vote for.
Great. Just what we need. Another political opportunist as mayor. Seems like truly understanding the problem and solving it will never stand in the way of our city leaders’s collective grandstanding.
I found this quote reflective of their abysmally low comprehension skills, “community leaders who are fighting to keep this s h e l t e r …”
God help us.
Just wait until she’s the Mayor.
As of now, it’s Let’s go Curtis!
Curtis is not running for mayor. He’d have to give up his radio show and he loves that too much,Dont see that happening. I’ll listen to him solo, but when he’s teamed with another person totally unlistenable especially with the female he’s teamed with now
It is NOT a “shelter” – it’s a hotel!
In addition, I have yet to see any resident coming out or going in wearing a mask. So, the excuse of preventing the spread of COVID just does not make sense.
the gad flies will make a bigger mess of this situation.
Vote these local elected people who do not have our best interest in mind out of office.
We the tax payers who make the west side viable need our streets back. Making excuses for peoples failures are not doing these people any favors. Accountability in government must be brought back into our neighborhoods.
they city should start a program “adopt a homeless ” and all t good samaritans who are protesting can take one of these “good people” at their homes and help them get back on their feet .
Da Homeless Hero: Could you answer a few questions I have? For those in the hotel who have a long road to recovery due to drug addiction and mental illness which makes it impossible for them to work now, what services exactly are they receiving at the hotel? how many hours per day/week? Can you stay in your room for the day if you wish? How do the level of services compare to when you are in a shelter? And finally are you ever scared by those exhibiting psychotic behavior? Wouldn’t you prefer to be housed with those who are working or on the road to recovery? Thanking you in advance for answering my questions. I’m trying to understand the day to day stuff.
Where are the nonprofit providers who are supposed to move people people out of temporary shelters? Making service dollars for as many years as they have been there. Why haven’t people moved to permanent? If this was a factor for business they would have failed. Why are we paying them millions?
It’s amazing that people talk about privelage without doing any homework. Her husband is a hedge fund manager and she went to Dartmouth and Columbia Law School. There is nothing that makes Maya any more or less privelaged than anyone else on this forum. Almost everyone works hard who is on this forum and it is just as much racist to assume that she is or isn’t privelaged based on the color of her skin without doing any homework.
Really? Wow, that’s rich!
Won’t be voting for her.
Following De Blasio with a like-minded classist, woke mayor will be the death knell for NYC. The city can’t afford to vote that in, but my bet is they will.
Perfectly stated Theo!
The problem is the City has no method for separating the emotionaly disturbed and/or drug/alchol addled, ex-con,etc.. homeless individuals from those who are homeless primarily because of financial misfortune, a recent job loss, for example. So when UWS’er complain about the former group, for reasons which are very real, some take it that we are heartlessly attacking the latter group, which is not the case.
Unearned Privilege , Entitlement?? These are ridiculous comments. I worked 12-15 hour days. I built a successful business from ground up. I employed 75 people and gave them great health care, matching 401K’s and great salaries. I earned whatever I now have and just want to live in peace without worrying about the safety and wellbeing of wife, my neighbors and myself.