All Homeless Hotel Relocations Are on Pause Until September 30th; New Services Go Into Effect At The Lucerne

The Lucerne.

By Carol Tannenhauser

The men experiencing homelessness at The Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue won’t be moving out before the end of the month, a spokesperson for Councilmember Helen Rosenthal told WSR. “All shelter moves have been put on pause until September 30th.”

In the meantime, in an interview on The Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC) on Tuesday, Rosenthal contended that changes at The Lucerne have helped to mitigate some of the problems that arose in the neighborhood in the first few weeks after the men’s arrival in late July. “There were very legitimate complaints about aggressive behavior and real quality-of-life concerns,” Rosenthal said.

Initially, in an email blast to her constituents, the councilmember called for no more shelters on the UWS, and vowed “to fight any attempt to keep the Lucerne shelter here longer than necessary” — positions she regretted and recanted in a follow-up email.

In retrospect, Rosenthal thinks her “moral compass was clouded” by the intensity of the initial outcry. Since then, “we have worked hard with the shelter provider (Project Renewal) to address the concerns,” she told Lehrer. “I would say, after about weeks two or three, many of those concerns had gone away.”

Rosenthal credits the improvement to both the strict “good neighbor policy” Project Renewal employs, and the expansion of programs and services for the men.

“If you display aggressive behavior on the street or in the shelter, you lose the privilege of living there,” Rosenthal explained. “At this juncture, the resident population at The Lucerne has gone down from 283 residents to 240…Those were the ‘bad apples.’ Usually, DHS (Department of Homeless Services) would send people to replace them, but DHS has acknowledged that the shelter population (at The Lucerne) was too big and they’re not replacing people who are moved out.”

She backtracked. “…to be clear, when I say ‘bad apples,’ what I mean is they needed additional services to the services they were getting at the Lucerne.”

Rosenthal at a rally at The Lucerne.

Opponents of the shelter often claim that there are “no services” at The Lucerne — and no let up of the neighborhood’s problems. Holly, a local resident, called in to say, “it’s incredibly disingenuous of our representative to characterize it as only a two-week problem given that it continues to happen.” Rosenthal called the information “dated,” and asked for “patience.” In a letter to the Mayor and DHS Commissioner Steven Banks, she outlined service improvements that have been made at The Lucerne.

“…many Upper West Siders recently stepped up to arrange for donations to hotel clients, and private donors had provided funding ($250,000) to establish a day program for the clients at nearby Goddard Riverside. In fact, the Goddard program was scheduled to start the day after the City announced that it would move the residents (the food had been ordered and paid for.)”

Callers also included Joshua Goldfein of Legal Aid, which has threatened a lawsuit if shelter clients are moved, and a resident of The Lucerne known as “Da Homeless Hero,” who described the recovery programs now going on in the hotel’s penthouse conference rooms: 12-step meetings, harm reduction classes, etc.

Another neighborhood resident called in and confided, “I’m supposed to be having a session with my shrink right now, but this is very important. Yes, I did lose two friendships over this issue. I don’t want to be a Progressive Pollyanna, but…if a child sees somebody from such a place who’s being housed, and who clearly is different from the world they come from, I don’t think that’s such a terrible experience for a person to have, but I’m sure there are many people who don’t agree with me.”

Listen to the whole interview below.

NEWS | 62 comments | permalink
    1. CrankyPants says:

      Helen’s “moral compass?” Oxymoron. She and her homeless plans are inane and dangerous. Heaven help the UWS cause our elected officials won’t.

    2. MAD says:

      I hope this comment isn’t censored, as some of mine have been. If you have ever been inside the Hotel Lucerne, as I have several times in the past, you will know that there is no room for congregate meetings or other services. I don’t know if there is a gym. There is a small lobby, a small breakfast room on an upper floor, and a roof space that is currently closed. The headline in this article is misleading: If Goddard Riverside is providing services (such as recreation) I doubt this would take place at the Lucerne. The men living there would need to go elsewhere, perhaps to a G-R location. Also the information in this article is already dated since this interview took place last week. Do you have any more recent updates?

      • Peggy says:

        There is a large meeting room on a top floor at the Lucerne. It’s a good place for AA Meetings and other meetings that the people living there can attend. It’s lovely and a perfect place to make men and women feel comfortable in their time of need.
        This topic makes me so sad and ashamed of some of my neighbors.
        Please be kind Upper West Siders.

    3. JS says:

      Those supportive of the Lucerne may want to provide financial support to other shelters on the West Side (including families) and supported housing for individuals with mental health challenges – these have been located on the West Side for years (run by various not for profits) and definitely need financial support.

      BTW the City is able to use hotels now (homeless are being placed in hotels in 4 boroughs) due to FEMA Covid funding.

    4. Steven says:

      I will say it has gotten better in the area. I did however see 2 Lucern residents leaving the hotel mid week as I walked by with no mask over their mouth & nose, it was down to their neck & this was as they walked out the front door. I guess we’ve seen & heard worse. Also, I ran over to the Duane Reade (on 79th & Amsterdam) last night around 11:30pm & they were closed with a sign on the window that they are now closing at 10pm. I then went to the CVS on 77th & Broadway & they too were closed. Anyone know why both are now closing early when they are supposed to be 24 hours?

      • Irene says:

        FYI — CVS app indicates that most Manhattan stores are closing at 10P now. 86 & Amsterdam still open 24 hrs. So closing at 77 St not related to Lucerne.

      • Peter says:

        The subway shutting down early is a factor. Also it’s a safety issue for the employee s. Very few people are out and about late at night. Guarantee they would be robbed if they tried to stay open 24 hours. The subway shutting down has changed many businesses hours. The employees live in the outer boroughs and don’t want to be on the train late when it’s not safe. Welcome to the new NYC. Shuts down earlier than Lincoln Nebraska. SMH

    5. Abdul Sayeed says:

      “New moral compasses for old!”
      (Also, old moral compasses de-clouded for a modest charge.)

    6. James Brummel says:

      The coverage of this issue creates the false impression that UWS revolted when homeless people where moved into the area.

      There are 3 other residences within <10 blocks of the Lucerne. There has been 0 protest. The issue here is the high concentration in a small area and that this group had previously been evicted due to their behavior.

    7. Peter says:

      I don’t hear an apology for her labeling 15,000 of her neighbors as “racist,” after we raised what she only now deems as “legitimate” concerns.

      Or this due the same clouded moral compass?

      • Jay says:

        @Peter:

        “I don’t hear an apology for her labeling 15,000 of her neighbors as “racist,” after we raised what she only now deems as “legitimate” concerns.”

        You can confirm of course that the whole Facebook “concern” group lives on the UWS?

        • Yes I live here and yes I have kids says:

          No one is objecting to raising of concerns. What there is a big issue with is pouring hundred of thousands of dollars to hire a pit bull lawyer to have those “concerns” thrown out of the neighborhood. What if you had channeled those dollars to actually making an improvement in the well being of others. Do lawyers need more money? Do problems get solved that way or do you just not have to look at your concerns as you cross the street. I think everyone in the “safer streets” group had to take a long look at themselves and ask why their instinct was to call a lawyer instead of address a concern with real solutions.

          • Peter says:

            Hmm, I see. I seem to recall that the raising of concerns was met with ridicule, calls of NIMBYism, “fearmongering,” “dehumanization”, etc, etc, etc. Now suddenly concerns are OK but you have trouble with how someone else’s money is spent. I suggest you focus on how to spend the money the “compassionate” group raised. Or better oversight on the billions of tax dollars that the DHS controls, and how they’ve contributed to the mess we are in.

            Also, funny how your (or Helen’s) “real” solutions suddenly rely on…drum roll…booting 15% of the Lucerne residents out of there. And suddenly, living here is “privilege.” I thought we were fighting this gated community mindset.

          • Peggy says:

            You are right about the group of the privileged hiring a high priced lawyer to keep their neighborhood the way they want. It’s shameful. It’s all about money, just like the Lucerne. The owner, who is retiring and wants to sell, is making money during a time when the hotels in NYC are losing business. They don’t want their investment in property to go down in value. Follow the money.

    8. MKing says:

      Maybe someone can help me understand why, if the Javitz Center (a commercial entity similar to these hotels)can be ready to house hundreds of Covid patients safely when we have a shortage of beds in hospitals around the city, why couldn’t they have used the Javitz center,(away from residential neighborhoods) for the homeless. Yes, I do know that the hoteliers are buddies of our fine mayor, but doesn’t he think?
      They currently cannot be used for conventions so they are empty and my guess is there will be no auto show and no boat show in 2021 either.
      Why couldn’t the taxpayers money go to that building rather than these “luxury” hotels?
      Maybe I am missing a piece of this puzzle.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        You answered your own question: mayor + hotel owner = Tammany.

      • Happy to help! says:

        Javitz is effectively one big ol’ room (not a great set-up if you’re trying to limit the spread of a virus). Thus, the hotels.

      • Jay says:

        @MKing,

        Your misspelling of the name (Javits) tells me you’re not familiar with the place. It’s effectively a few very large spaces, as others have pointed out.

        You could have discovered this easily, when you looked up how to spell the Senator’s name.

        • Mary says:

          Yes, but it was set up as a hospital with beds and “rooms” for covid patients during the height of this. If it was safe for a covid hospital, it would be safe for these men now.

          • Jay says:

            @Mary:

            The walls of the hotel rooms are reasonably sound proof. These men are/were free to come and go from the rooms up until 10PM.

            They are NOT confined to the rooms and beds in tented spaces as the patients were in the Javits Center.

            So no, the Javits Center, unless you are proposing the construction of rooms with solid walls, solid doors, solid ceilings, and individual bathrooms, is not an appropriate space.

      • Mary says:

        Great point! They had it all set up with the beds and “rooms” for the covid hospital during the height of all this. They could keep the patients safe, they could keep these non covid residents safe.

      • BornandRaised says:

        They don’t pay the full price of the room. SRO’s are common when there is a shortage of beds and housing. The government gets a very low rate for the room in return for the hotel housing people in a crisis or emergency.

    9. Sarah says:

      I’m pleased to hear that many UWSers were working to ameliorate concerns in a positive way rather than just trying to get those gross homeless people out of the way lest their property values go down or their children be forced to learn a little bit about the injustice of the world.

      • Buddy Revell says:

        Homeless hanging out on the streets cn also serve as a cautionary tale of making bad choices….

      • JS says:

        Sarah,
        Perhaps all of us should be reminded that for years there have been homeless shelters and supported housing on the West Side, with little interest on either “side”.
        Relatively few West Siders helped those residents and at the same time, relatively few West Siders opposed those entities.

      • sam says:

        Yeah, it is a real injustice that those who worked hard for decades can afford to live on UWS while those who refused to work and used drugs are homeless!

        • Jay says:

          @sam:

          Got news for you, plenty of “hard workers”, especially in some parts of finance, use and abuse drugs.

          Also how do you know these homeless in the hotels were jobless pre-corona virus? Many homeless, living in shelters, have jobs.

        • Sarah says:

          Everyone deserves a decent home. Everyone.

          God forgive you for your ignorance of how lucky you are.

        • Katina Ellison says:

          Sam – Your comments contribute to a damaging lack of understanding around who people experiencing homelessness are. 1/3 struggle with mental illness, 85% are people of color, and some are working or training for jobs. The men at the Lucerne are receiving a full range of supports, services, and treatment.

          Please take the time to study the true facts around homelessness, for example at coalitionforthehomeless.org.

          • Leon says:

            You make some valid points but please remind me what the racial composition of the homeless has to do with this? It is very sad that some people repeatedly try to turn this into a race issue. It is not.

            Secondly, these men were not receiving sufficient support, services and treatment – that was the problem. They were just being warehoused. And for those most in need of support, that was a big problem. From what I understand, they are now receiving more support, which is great – this is a victory for both the homeless men and the residents of our neighborhood.

        • MK says:

          I’m one of these homeless, now gratefully housed in a NYC hotel. I don’t do chemicals, period. Chronic illness made me finally unable to work after many years in retail. A tropical storm cost me my house. Please don’t assume that everyone who is homeless because they are addicted. Life can slam you down hard when you least expect it.

    10. Concerned UWSer says:

      I have contacted Helen Rosenthal’s office half a dozen times since August to try to talk to her about a number of issues on the UWS— homelessness, yes, but also my concern for small businesses (can we do more to help them, please?) and the proliferation of scaffolding with no work being done on the buildings. I haven’t been able to speak with her. I am concerned that she has all this time for publicity and media but isn’t taking the time to speak with constituents. Is anyone else having this problem?

    11. Esue419 says:

      LIARS – Cory Johnson kicked them out of the WJ Hotel in Hells Kitchen because his constituents complained about the dangerous actions of these residents and they ended up in the Lucerne. Helen, you are so full of shit and a liar.

    12. anonymous says:

      Who cares…..

    13. Amanda Miller says:

      I live in the Harmonia, why are Disabled families that were moved in by Legal Aid bc of where shelter is located and offerings, being thrown out like garbage, to accommodate singles that can live anywhere..we have restrictions on us from HRA drs..we where given less than 12hrs to move(First letter) when you should get at least 48, if not more for being homebound…

    14. It has been very heartening to see people rise up against cries of NIMBY, and call for tolerance and compassion. Fear and misconceptions lead to the kind of discrimination we see here.

      Interfering with housing for protected classes such as race and disability can constitute civil and human rights violations. The Fair Housing Law has been successfully used to overcome opposition and allow people of color and those with disabilities to be integrated into our communities.

      • Dom says:

        The NIMBY argument is a tired fallacy. Upper West Siders had no problem accepting their share of homeless shelters. But there were too many in too small a radius causing serious safety issues.

    15. Leon says:

      I think that many of us were upset because the good neighbor policies that HR speaks of took so long to implement. If these policies were in place and enforced from day one, there would have been a lot less complaining. I know that usual protocols had to be accelerated due to the pandemic, but having these rules in place from day one should have been a top priority.

      I’m still not thrilled about the huge influx of homeless people into our hotels but I am a lot less troubled now because rules are being enforced. Unfortunately, the super progressives lump me in with those who wanted them out no matter what – there is a lot of nuance here.

      I also took a lot of heat for using a term like “worst of the worst.” I was not generalizing about all of the residents – just the critical mass of trouble makers which most of us, including HR, admit were present. Perhaps I should have used the term “bad apples.”

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        reply to Leon:

        indeed, that would have made a huge difference. And you could have pointed out that these were a MINORITY of the residents, as is now quite clear and was clear from the beginning. These men were tarred with a very broad brush. There also were a lot of rumors spread, such as sex offenders being in the Lucerne.

        And the Lucerne residents were lumped in with the street homeless, a serious problem but one of a different nature. The existence of the Lucerne helps alleviate “encampments”, rather than create more. The issues of behavioral health and mental illness are far more extreme with the street homeless.

    16. Steven says:

      Update on the Duane Reade & 79th & Amsterdam closing now at 10pm. I was in there tonight & asked about it. They said that since things got bad in the neighborhood, their nighttime business dropped so significantly that they weren’t making enough to have it worth staying open past 10pm. He said they will review that again in a few weeks.

    17. Rob G. says:

      Helen’s “moral compass” seems to be pointed toward everyone but her own constituents, who worked so hard over the years to improve the neighborhood. Whatever her real motives are, she continues to play an instrumental role in the spiraling decline of the UWS.

    18. Chrigid says:

      during Covid, it is dangerous for strangers to be sharing bathrooms and kitchens, hence hotels with meal service.

    19. UWS says:

      Impeach Helen Rosenthal.

      This is the THIRD neighborhood requesting that this group be moved out, and the only one not successful. No, living in a 4 star hotel on the UWS is not a basic right.

    20. Johns33 says:

      “Mk” describes himself as one of the homeless and briefly told his personal story. Would be great to hear from more of the resident clients so we can better see them as individuals rather than “those homeless”.

    21. Vivi says:

      The West Side has always had a fair amount of Shelters and homes for pregnant women which we have absorbed into our community without rancor.There has always been a hotel on Broadway between 85 and 86th, with the residents gathered to chat and sun themselves outside.
      The best residence is that on WEA in the 80s where pregnant women and those with newborns are extremely well supervised, with outdoor cameras etc. No friends or residents are allowed to gather outside.
      Maybe we have been too accepting and therefore have been dumped upon because of it.

    22. Farnham Maxwell says:

      Honestly..It’s all difficult isn’t it?
      But should it be?

    23. Rita Aiello says:

      We do NOT want any more homeless people on the UWS! PERIOD. Move out all the ones you brought in. Enough is enough! There are issues to be addressed such as safety and quality of life, Helen Rosenthal does NOT represent the majority of Upper West Side residents. She says whatever is politically convenient for her. Shame on you, Helen Rosenthal! You will NOT get my vote, for sure.

    24. TaxedToDeath says:

      Agreed.
      It’s about time HR looked out for the hard working ‘providers’ of the UWS and stopped dumping More ‘takers’. All we do is go to work so we can support those who don’t.

    25. Carol Lubetsky says:

      Happy that in the long run you and we Westsiders did not bow to those folks who immediately run the homeless out. Instead everyone had their say and hopefully things will be resolved.
      Where should donation be sent to group who are working with the homeless?

    26. R Berman says:

      It’s really a shame that Helen Rosenthal is “term limited” and I won’t have the opportunity to vote against her &/or contribute to her opponent.

      In a city where the installation of a potted plant outside of a business practically requires Community Board approval, the idea that 280 “recovering addicts” from outside the neighborhood could be moved into a single hotel with a few days notice and no opportunity for any community input is outrageous. Ms. Rosenthal has been quoted as saying that she too had only a few days notice of the impending move. That is a “she” problem, not an “us” problem. It just speaks to the fact that Ms. Rosenthal is uninformed/ineffective/not engaged and possibly distracted by her impending retirement. I have lived on the UWS since the early ’70’s (originally a block from the infamous SRO, the Hotel Endicott). The neighborhood had more than its share of issue then, which were over time resolved. However, we were at least blessed with elected officials who took cognizance of their constituents’ interests, which does not appear to be the case now.