City’s Unaudited ‘Homeless Hotel’ Program Is Nearly Four Times as Expensive as First Estimated

People experiencing homelessness entering the Hotel Belleclaire in May.

By Joy Bergmann

The City’s contract with the Hotel Association of New York City [HANYC] to provide emergency housing to people experiencing homelessness during the Covid-19 crisis has grown to $299,790,000, an increase of $221,690,000 over the initial $78,100,000 cost cited when the contract began on April 15th, according to Checkbook NYC, a public database of City spending from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer’s office.

The amended contract does not run longer than the original October 12th end date, nor does it list any new parties to the contract. The only apparent change is a modification on August 24th increasing the amount by nearly $222 million. That’s $31,500 for each person housed in the hotels, on average — and it doesn’t include services.

Four Upper West Side hotels have been providing emergency shelter to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness during Covid-19: Hotel Belleclaire, Belnord Hotel, Park West Hotel and The Lucerne Hotel.

WSR asked the NYC Department of Homeless Services [DHS] for an explanation of the cost increase and information on the percentage of the contract to be paid out of the City budget versus by other governmental entities like FEMA, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

We did not receive direct answers. 

Instead, DHS provided a briefing document which delineated the following: 

The document says, “The $78M HANYC contract from earlier this summer reflected the initial part (i.e. only a portion) of the work we have comprehensively outlined here…We adjusted our contract with HANYC to reflect the full scope of work necessary to protect the New Yorkers we serve.”  

WSR emailed HANYC seeking comment on the modified contract. If we hear back, we’ll update this story. 

WSR also asked the NYC Comptroller’s Office for comment on the contract and its City budget implications. A spokesperson told WSR that the Comptroller’s Office did not review or register the HANYC contract, nor any of its modifications, per the Mayor’s Emergency Executive Order #101 suspending laws and regulations related to procurement during the pandemic in New York City.

The day after the HANYC contract was modified, on August 25th, the Comptroller’s Office did issue a press release calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to restore checks and balances to the procurement process. In it, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said, “As we emerge from the darkest days of the pandemic and build our city back, it’s time to restore full oversight and accountability to city contracting. The Mayor needs to rescind this executive order so we can ensure that every dollar we spend is delivering for New Yorkers.” 

Neha Sharma, a spokesperson for NYC Department of Social Services – Department of Homeless Services, provided the following statement on the next steps for the hotel program. “We’re watching our health indicators closely and working with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine when and how clients can be safely relocated back to shelters from the temporary hotel relocation sites, and we’ll inform communities when our City is ready to take that step. Pre-COVID we had been driving down commercial hotel use as we announced we would, and we have no plans to continue using emergency relocation hotels on an ongoing basis.” 

NEWS | 77 comments | permalink
    1. Drew says:

      And who’s going to pick up the check? US. This is our of control. I just can’t anymore…

      • ActNow says:

        Estimated total to take care of the homeless population in Manhattan in the last 6 months : 300 MILLION dollars, that is 50 MILLION a month. Meanwhile people who lost their jobs due to Covid are homeschooling their children, loosing their health insurance, worrying about how they are going to pay their rent. Also, worrying about safety and about going outside in their own neighborhoods. You are right it feels insane. And, Unfair?

    2. OneWay says:

      The city is broke. DHS should be dismantled. Anyone requiring their services should be given a bus ticket to KS.

      • Thievery! says:

        Mayor Giuliani did back in the 90s “a one-way ticket on a Greyhound bus” this is ludacris. I knew something was strange… this is all Helen Rosenthal‘s doings!!!
        This should be all investigated by the state is New York district attorney office.
        And close those hotels down now!!!

        • UWSHebrew says:

          New York district attorney? You mean Cy Vance Jr.? You think HE will investigate? I have a bridge to sell you!

      • Rita R says:

        Heeey! I live in Kansas! Don’t send us your problems. We have enough of our own!

    3. Ridiculous says:

      Good grief… WTF!!!
      That’s where our tax money is going who’s gonna pay this bill….”$31,500 for each person housed in the hotels, on average — and it doesn’t include services”.

      New York City is broke!!!!
      The governor said this afternoon “Get them out of those hotels now!!!!
      “I’m not paying for this”.

      All UWS Homeless hotels are being evacuated as of today we are leaving.

    4. e says:

      As usual, the tax payers are screwed again. So many crooks benefitting from this scam.

    5. LK says:

      This is trivial! They estimated the cost at 78 million. The on April 15 they multiplied it by ~4. You know why? Because they found out that the feds ( taxpayers of this country ) were going to cover 75% of the cost. See this release ( on apr 20 ): https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200727/fema-programs-helping-people-coast-coast

    6. Lock Her Up says:

      Did we just locate part of Charlaine’s billion?

      • Burt L Kozloff says:

        “A hit. A palpable hit!”

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        If we did, then let me tell you… I have never ever heard of ThriveNYC or whatever its called… A billion dollars and we still being driven crazy in these shelters/drug dens… smh!!! #ImpeachTheMayor

    7. SB says:

      This is breathtaking. I’m not even sure how to contextualize this. What appalling, blatant grift. For that money these people could have been set up with real, stable places to live, long term, instead of funneling money into this controversial short-term hotel situation. I live on the UWS and pay slightly more than $31,500 per year for a one bedroom. My apartment rent breaks down to nowhere near $120 per night. For that these people aren’t even being helped?

      • UWSer says:

        The contract runs 4/15/20 to 10/12/20 (180 days). The $31,500 per person is therefore the equivalent of $175/day or $5,250/month/person! For that price they should be able to house many more people and in apartments not hotels. Hotels are not the answer. This contract is not the answer. More oversight please. We can only hope that DeB and his staff furlough themselves indefinitely so they can do no more harm.

      • Irate Partisan says:

        Yes, exactly!

        Great work WSR. Glad somebody is watching.

      • UWSer says:

        I went into one of the hotel shelters to drop off a clothing donation. There is no longer hotel staff and these contracts do not keep hotel staff employed. Instead all staff is from whatever community organization was hired for homeless services. Therefore the money contracted to hotels is going solely to the hotel owner to line their pockets or service their debt or pay their property taxes (thus robbing peter to pay paul). In that regard is was rather clever for DeB to grab federal funds to bail out his bank buddies or to pay NYC property taxes (assuming the article reference about FEMA funding is true).

    8. Susan says:

      “people experiencing homelessness”

      Do you mean homeless people?

      • Outrageous! says:

        Yes Susan this is Pure out right thievery and these do gooders are behind it or that naïve!!!!
        Get them out of those UWS hotels tonight I’m not paying for this at all on my taxes!

      • PC cop says:

        They shun labels that might make a person feel ashamed about their situation. It’s clever marketing.

      • Susan Reinhardt says:

        Yes. The gentle rewording is sort of like calling a murder victim “someone experiencing murder.”

    9. UWS Wes says:

      Holy damn what?!!!

      This is criminal negligence. Someone needs to be investigated.

    10. UpperBest says:

      In private business, this would result in consequences to those involved. Sadly in government, and specifically this one, no one will blink an eye. The entire organization need to be questioned, from the Mayor to the comptroller to those at the DHS ( Drinkwater). This is pitiful on so many levels, and the taxpayers have been bilked. Sadly, its just another day at the office for NYC goverment.

    11. CrankyPants says:

      Get them out….and out of the City. Oh, you thought I was referring to the homeless? No, I mean DEBLASIO and his WIFE. They must not be allowed to further destroy our city. Cuomo should have stepped in months ago, but better late than never. Defund City Hall! I, too, vote “No Confidence” in “Hizzoner.”

    12. UWS person says:

      This smelled badly all along (no pun intended). We have seen so many nonsense decisions and rhetoric.
      The mayor and DHS seem corrupt and incompetent and this needs to be investigated by the state if Scott Stringer cannot account for this. Let’s include de Blasio wife’s Thrivenyc in there too with $800 mil spending on a website.

      • Juan says:

        Please read the article. Stringer had nothing to do with this because deBlasio did it by executive order. I saw Stringer interviewed months ago and he was very frustrated.

        It is the same as Trump using executive orders to achieve his crooked agenda. I hate Trump with my whole soul but I’m starting to wonder if deBlasio is worse.

        • UWS person says:

          Yes I agree, I meant to say that we needed oversight since de Blasio did not allow Stringer to review or audit this (by the Executive order) same executive order he gives to do whatever he wants apparently with the taxpayers money. He is just awful. After calling the media last week for a major announcement for the city recovery plan, he had nothing except for platitude and walked out on reporters when they asked him where is the ‘plan’? It is just too painful to see so much incompetence and cronyism by his mayor.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        She also had a podcast!

    13. B.B. says:

      Said this back at time, in response to “why” these hotels are taking in homeless; and might one say was told off at the time IIRC.

      Now you have proof; Lucerne, Belnord and rest of these hotels being used as “temporary emergency shelters”, are being very well compensated.

      For rooms that would have otherwise sat empty during pandemic these hotel are getting near or over rack rates.

      • UpperWest says:

        Near or over rack rates, plus the owners aren’t paying any staff, I believe, because they applied for PPP, and of course special services teams are needed for shelters (tas-payer funded). Thus, owners are getting rack rate, full-hotel revenues with much lower costs than usual, so their profits are likely extraordinary here.

        All of this means that how these particular hotels were selected for this benefit is incredibly important as a matter of integrity.

    14. ZoomZ says:

      Prepare for the future.
      This is what communism, dressed as socialism,
      looks like, and the worst is yet to come.
      This is what the “mayor” of the greatest city in the world has done to the people who voted him in – TWICE!!!
      $299,790,000 and counting.
      Lock them up. Pronto.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Only if you vote for Sliwa! Otherwise, they get away with it!

      • JerryV says:

        ZoomZ, This has nothing to do with communism/socialism. It has to do with stupidity plus a much needed financial investigation of who in the City Administration might be benefitting from these decisions.

        • ZoomZ says:

          JerryV,
          The buck stops with the so called “mayor”.
          He happens to be a communist, going back to the 1980’s. Research him and Daniel Ortega.
          The best I can say about him after reading your (welcomed) reply is:
          He’s a stupid communist.
          Cheers

      • James Brummel says:

        You don’t seem to know what socialism is. This is gilded age capitalism. Our tax dollars doled out to private businesses in sweetheart deals with no oversight.

      • QtrCntryUWS says:

        Please don’t ignore our nation’s due process and yell, “lock them up.” This attitude smacks of the emotionalism and disrespect for our Constitution that Trump shows. Bother to be specific about possible solutions that are actionable and legal. Do you want to live in a nation where you can just lock someone up because you are upset? Really?

    15. Otis says:

      The same folks who went who went almost 300% over budget administrating the homeless are now telling us that our concerns over the homeless are without warrant.

      Oy.

    16. Erika says:

      Why not give them all one of the many empty apartments in NYC?? Many of them rent for $3600 a month or less, especially now.

    17. Breaking News says:

      Good work WSR you got all major new stations on the case!
      CBS News will be mentioning WSR In their report they are working on now.

    18. Michael Fox says:

      Yes Helen let’s keep them in hotels! I mean I am so angry right now as a tax payer of this city. We need political change.

      • Chris says:

        For those prices why not BUY them all mansions in Detroit ? There is a reason nyc is so attractive to those who want help — we need to stop advertising for people from elsewhere to come on over.

    19. UpperWest says:

      We’re 100% sure that it is not simply the case that the first estimate was net of any FEMA reimbursement (recall they pay 75%), while the amendment showed the expense gross of that reimbursement, with that reimbursement accounted for elsewhere? Such an accounting change would lead to an apparent quadrupling.

      I’m guessing that is not correct, but seems worth asking.

      • Joy Bergmann says:

        In addition to my main question as to why the contract had increased by $222M, I asked DHS: “What percentage of this nearly $300M will be paid from the City budget? What percentage will be paid by other, non-NYC governmental entities e.g. FEMA?”

        They did not mention FEMA in their response, or answer the percentages query.

        • UWS person says:

          WSR thank you for reporting on this. Maybe you should be present in the mayor daily updates to ask this question.
          It is important to know what percent of the additional $222 mil is paid by NYC taxpayers as well as the additional services. This cost is only for the hotel so what are we paying in total?

        • UpperWest says:

          Thanks for this response, and thank you for the reporting as well.

    20. RonfromRiverside says:

      Another reason to leave NYC. Having to foot the bill for homeless population living in Hotels.

      • Susan Reinhardt says:

        If this is the Ron I think it is, you’re living in a magnificent tent-stabilized apartment in Riverside and 93rd. So spare us the sanctimony about your tax dollars paying for others. You have the deal of a lifetime.

    21. steve says:

      Bureaucrats wasting other peoples money? Shocking!

    22. Newcavendish says:

      What a farce. At a time when the city and state are entering dire fiscal straits (see the 9/29 NYT), we have this complete failure of responsible management. The city is going to become unlivable if the fiscal crisis becomes too great; adding the unplanned and poorly controlled and now outrageously expensive, unaudited hotel experiment to the mix will only accelerate the decision to move by many people. NIMBY is a problem, but a problem that could be avoided with sensitive management. Driving taxpayers out of the city is a kind of reverse NIMBY by an irresponsible city government.

    23. Susan says:

      Follow the Money, Open Hearts and Helen Rosenthal.

    24. A third of a billion dollars?! For that kind of money you could be putting them in trump tower… which would be a great idea for all concerned!!!

    25. My name? says:

      MAYOR DEBLASIO.. need we say more?

    26. JerryV says:

      I wonder how many of these homeless people can be accommodated in Gracie Mansion?

    27. Janet says:

      I forwarded this story to NY Post, lets see if they can embarrass De Bozo further if thats possible

    28. Paul Hoffman says:

      5 months is abut 150 days. $120 per night = $18,000 per person. What was the additional $13,000 per person for?

      • Jan says:

        Has anyone been listening to my comments re a Tiny House Village out of the city at 10K per house
        to construct?
        It IS being done in Montana!
        This is a solution staring us right in the face but no one
        seems to be motivated to do it!!
        IMAGINE. A permanent solution to the Homeless
        Problem nationwide!!

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Disposable cell phones? Mr. Softee ice cream?

    29. Kari says:

      How is this lack of oversight even possible? Especially as NYC is broke? If I understand, this means $31,557 spent per person (just for housing). They could pay rent for apartments at this rate. Madness!

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Not madness. Check out the owner of the hotel. Goes back a few years with the mayor. See, they know each other. “It’s just business” — Michael Corleone.

    30. Robert Sheridan says:

      Lifetime career pols & bureaucrats who never had a real job have no problem squandering taxpayer money as here.

      That is their culture. Ditto Albany – Cumo never had a real job except picking constituent pockets. Same with the rest of the crew up there.

      Schumer, Nadler. etc. ditto – Never had real jobs, never had to make business rent or payroll.

      ALL have taken a full paycheck while squandering tax money and NY businesses fail left & right.

    31. Robert Sheridan says:

      PS:

      This is the same NYC crew (Blaso & Co.) who 1) Managed to ‘lose’ a $Billion unaccounted for in ‘homeless yoga’ but 2) Promise super-detective ‘forensic accounting’ on Trump’s NYC tax liabilities/payments.

      How about applying that super detective-work for our money that likely by now is sitting in some numbered Swiss bank account (aka “Old Pols Retirement Fund”)?

      .

    32. dc says:

      Isn’t it true that anyone can come to NYC, claim to be a “person experiencing homelessness”, and basically be guaranteed the right to housing, paid for by the taxpayers of the city? How is this policy financial sustainable, particularly in a city with a huge budget deficit. Be prepared for tax hikes, with many leaving as a result.

      • UWSDesi says:

        A friend was debating whether we should “experience homelessness” or do an Airbnb when he moved from bay area to NY last month. he ultimately voted for Airbnb but debate was serious. On a related note, is this good or bad for Airbnb in NY? DeB is a creating competition by flooding market with free units, but is also removing supply. worth pondering over.

      • Keri says:

        We have the unsustainable “right to shelter” law in NY. Anyone can arrive in NYC and say they are homeless and we are required to shelter them. With looming budget cuts, we must change this Law!

    33. say-moi says:

      This is no doubt just a drop in the bucket. Can you imagine what other theft is taking place in the City? Where do we get the oversight we need to make sure we aren’t constantly screwed. I wonder if anyone will do the math on how much fraud and abuse took place regarding the massive amount of money that was undoubtedly stolen during the city’s inept funding of the coronavirus.. or the MTA during shut down.
      There’s never accountability when money is sent by the Feds.

    34. sk says:

      now nyc for sure will go bankrupt

    35. Fiorella says:

      Grand larceny in plain sight! Thank you WSR. Breaking this story so close to the Trump tax fraud reporting by the NYT is delicious and depressing. We should try to get a Brian Lehrer (WNYC) to cover it, maybe during his Friday talk with the half-present Mayor. I’ll try, If you can, please do so as well.

    36. bevwnoicq says:

      9500 individuals times average $120 per night times average 29 days times 5 months is only $165,300,000. The numbers they provided don’t even add up.

      Where’s the other 57 million going?

    37. UpperWest says:

      We may have our answer? Per the Governor, the city is not guaranteed that FEMA will contribute. So, the city might get stuck with the whole bill. Perhaps that uncertainty led to the restatement.

      Tough to commit to a $300mn spending plan hoping for 3/4 of it back, but not knowing if in fact that will even happen.