Lucerne Residents Start Work in New Jobs Program as Crucial Hearing Looms

By Amelia Roth-Dishy

Friday marked the first day of a new employment program for the men currently housed at the Lucerne Hotel, who await a court hearing on Monday to determine whether they’ll be moved to a new shelter downtown.

The program, a collaboration between the Goddard Riverside Community Center (GRCC) and Project Renewal, offers paid training in horticulture and street beautification for 10 hours a week at $15 an hour, administered through the GRCC’s Green Keepers social enterprise program.

Dressed in bright yellow rain jackets, a group of Lucerne residents fanned out across the neighborhood to sweep the sidewalks and pick up litter. They pushed trash cans emblazoned with a Project Renewal “Good Neighbors Program” logo. While the men were excited about their new jobs, they expressed apprehension about Monday’s looming hearing. Of course, if the results of the hearing mean that the men must leave the Lucerne, today may have been the first and last operational day of the program.

“We’re helping the community, upgrading the area and we’re praying we can stay at the Lucerne. I work and I go to school here,” said Joseph Humphrey, Jr, a Lucerne resident. “If we move we can’t do these jobs anymore and then I have to figure out a way to get to school.”

Larry Thomas, a former Lucerne resident who recently moved into permanent supportive housing, echoed the sentiment that this job fostered a sense of shared responsibility for the neighborhood. “I think what Goddard Riverside did in creating this program is a great thing, because it not only helps us, it also helps show the community that we’re here to work and to take care of the community,” he said.

The idea for the Green Keepers positions came about in August, when an anonymous board member at Goddard Riverside pledged $250,000 towards programming for Lucerne residents. A recreational program was intended to complement the jobs program, but it was shuttered in the back-and-forth around the men’s scheduled — and then legally blocked — move downtown. Now that the jobs program is finally off the ground, GRCC tentatively hopes to accommodate up to 50 Lucerne residents as employees.

NEWS | 44 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      Thank you, anonymous board member, for stepping forward and doing the right thing.

    2. blacklikeu says:

      All the court dates will end the same.
      The men stay put at the Lucerne.
      You don’t like it?
      Try and fight it, but you’ll lose, again and again and again.

    3. Chris says:

      So are they buying the luxury hotel and turning it into a homeless shelter now?

    4. Adam says:

      In regard to Monday’s court hearing, we all know that even if the judge rules for them to move downtown, the lawyer on the other side will again get another last minute injunction to stop it & get it prolonged. So don’t get your hopes up people, because we’ve been through this so many times already. It’s like watching a bad movie for the 10th time. You know the outcome but you still watch in hopes that it will end differently. Believe me, no matter what is ruled on Monday, these people are never leaving. Whichever way you want it to go, you know that will be the case.

    5. UWSidah says:

      This is a PR stunt. Plain and simple.
      Get this shelter out of the neighborhood now.
      The UWS already has too many shelters.

      • charles becker says:

        Nearly all the homeless shelters in NYC should be located on the UWS. Upper West Siders vote overwhelmingly progressive. They talk the talk. It is time for them to walk the walk.
        PS I live on the Upper West Side.

    6. lynn says:

      “We’re helping the community, upgrading the area and we’re praying we can stay at the Lucerne. I work and I go to school here,” said Joseph Humphrey, Jr, a Lucerne resident. “If we move we can’t do these jobs anymore and then I have to figure out a way to get to school.”

      Is JH Jr. referring to the horticulture training as school, or is he enrolled in high school, college, or another type of program? Just curious as to why he would have to travel uptown to go to school. Are there teens and/or young adult males living at the Lucerne?

      • HelenD says:

        I’m not sure why you’re asking, but I think you’re missing one of the key points. He said he has to figure out a way to get to school. How does everyone else in the city get to work and school? It’s called the subway. Something doesn’t seem right about this story. 🙁

    7. Bob Lamm says:

      I’ve been a supporter of Goddard-Riverside for about 20 years. I greatly admired the leadership of former executive director Stephan Russo and feel the same about his successor, Roderick Jones. This new program is one of many great efforts by Goddard-Riverside for residents of our neighborhood. How wonderful to help the men living at the Lucerne, whom I hope the court will allow to stay in our community.

    8. Spence Halperin says:

      I’ve lived on this block for almost 40 years and could not be more pleased that a big empty hotel is being used to help homeless men.

      • Chris says:

        Spence I doubt you do live there. One of the Lucerne neighbors tells me she is woken up by ambulances several times a week responding to issues from the Lucerne.

      • Amy Birnbaum says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. Fortunately their are still sympathetic, loving, and compassionate UWS’ers who want to get these men help. For those who are opposed, have you taken the time to sit down with any of these men to hear their stories? They are human beings with real feelings who desperately need support in an effort to maximize their potential for rehabilitation.

      • Bnyc says:

        Thank you! I agree it makes sense.

    9. Paul says:

      It seems to me that an easy way to gauge the effectiveness of efforts to properly blend the Lucerne’s population into the community is to look at the number of people dining at Nice Matin and neighboring restaurants in decent weather.

      The outdoor dining spaces of these places are regularly packed, and that should tell the naysayers something.

      As to the long run? Yes we’d all love to see the hotels return to normal operations. But that requires a lot more than we can expect for now and the near term.

    10. Susan says:

      Cute PR stunt. 4 months of increased crime, open drug use, panhandling, and harassment, but pick up some trash while getting $15 an hour, and people’s hearts just melt.

      They’re never leaving the Lucerne.

      • Otis says:

        I was thinking the same thing. This is nothing but a PR stunt. These residents and their advocates will show up at the court hearing on Monday and brag how hard working they are and how much they’re contributing to the community.

        When did they start to move into The Lucerne? Last April or May? It took all these months – just before a court hearing – for some of them to suddenly start “working”.

    11. Dan says:

      If programs like this were in place and comprehensive from the beginning, it would have gone a long way in comforting the people who don’t want the homeless men to live in the Lucerne and would have made their opposition less strident. If the money was pledged in August, why did it take 3 months to start? And why didn’t the advocates for the homeless men in the Lucern try to implement more programs like this? That would have gone much further than all of those rallies, handouts, and chalk messages.

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        That’s a great question. We were provided access to Goddard Riverside 6 days a week with the ability to receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Over half a million dollars was donated to the program and it included these 50 jobs. This was a huge failure on the Mayor by not engaging the community and us to use this as an opportunity to do some good in the neighborhood. His decision to move us caused us to lose most of what was offered. After our last court hearing, I begged for the jobs so that the residents and community could benefit. It’s definitely not a publicity stunt. If we stay, these jobs stay and it will be truly life-changing for many. Alot of people are moving into housing and having this job could help in that transition as well But you are right, it should’ve been implemented when first offered.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        It took 3 months becasue Goddard could not take the chance of starting them if the men were going to be moved, thus shutting down the program essentially instantly. Had the City and the mayor kept to their original plan to allow the men to stay until it was safe for them to return to congregate shelter, none of this would be happening, and the Goddard program would have begun immediately. As for “why didn’t the advocates for the homeless men in the Lucerne try to implement more programs like this?” They did. but advocacy only goes so far when the mayor and DHS are hellbent on moving them.

        Re: “That would have gone much further than all of those rallies, handouts, and chalk messages.” It was more than that. The community – through Open Hearts Initiative – have provided writing workshops, 12-atep programs, mediation classes, and programs serving the men’s spiritual needs, among others.

        • js says:

          Is Open Hearts working to support homeless families? There are many homeless children and parents in hotels and shelters.
          Or is it just focused on the individuals in the Lucerne?

    12. Concerned citizen says:

      Maybe the city should repurpose some of the many now empty, untenanted office buildings in Midtown and other business districts, which they’ve done before, and turn them into affordable apartments and homeless shelters, instead of besieging and overloading local neighborhoods without proper support systems.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        That idea is already being looked at seriously. It would indeed be a good use of buildings that would otherwise remain vacant or be turned into high-priced condos.

    13. I couldn’t care less what they do with the Lucerne as long as they stick to the program and respect the coronavirus laws. Obey the laws of the people and give back to the neighborhood such as keeping it clean and being responsible, respectful to the residents of the neighborhood. Let’s not just keep 79th St. clean let’s spread them out through the Upper West Side. They should all be branded (logo) on their coats for encouragement by all of us.

      People listen here! Times are tough for the poor, the needy and homeless… they should all be looked out for.
      ‘For blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

    14. Marie Desilets says:

      What about the Belleclaire residents? Do they get jobs too? Or is it just for Lucernne addicts? Sounds terribly political.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        A far greater number of residents of the Belleclaire already work. And using the term “Lucerne addicts” is incredibly mean-spirited.

    15. UWSer says:

      The city is spending close to $50K per day to house these men in Lucerne. The grant from the “anonymous donor” is equal to five days of the hotel’s income. I wonder who the “anonymous donor” might be…

    16. Steph says:

      This is a last minute stunt by people so committed to their agendas that they would set up a program for only 50 men to keep 250 at the Lucerne, whereas if they moved to FiDi they would ALL have job training. What a terrible mess this is. It’s become about emerging as the victor and not what would be best for these men.

      • Mia says:

        Too much of our tax money is going into maintaining shelters in hotels. These residents have mental and moral issues, our neighborhood isn’t safe anymore.

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        Just for clarities sake. The Radisson is an empty hotel and there are no services there. There’s no medical clinic, none of that. It’s just a hotel. Project Renewal has a vocational program at its offices but due to Covid, it was shut down. This program is a partnership between Goddard Riverside and Project Renewal designed to set a new and better model for community engagement. It should’ve been done early but we are doing something here that will not be done if we move to the Radisson. That place is just a hotel like the Lucerne. The difference is that through my advocacy I was able to get them to engage the community and bring all of their services onsite to the hotel. With community support, we have offered more services that do not cost the city or taxpayers any additional money.

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        One more thing to clarify. DHS has quietly moved people into the Radisson presumably under another shelter provider. However, none of the people who currently there receiving any services, not job training, not substance use disorder treatment, or treatment for mental illness. When I say it’s an empty building I mean it is devoid of services. On the UWS, of the new shelters, only The Lucerne has on-site services, jobs, medical facilities, programs, and community engagement.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        For the record, if the residents are moved to FiDi, they would LOSE a great many of the services they receive at the Lucerne. This includes the many services provided by the community through Open Hearts Initiative, as well as the jobs program being provided by Goddard Riverside, which would NOT follow the men downtown. Please learn the facts before you make claims of this type.

    17. H says:

      I’d like free housing and a job. I’m below poverty level with my adopted child now and can’t get unemployment nor a job, not for lack of trying. My savings have almost run dry. I’m a professional for over 30 years and now am making decisions like food for my child (I don’t eat) and paying rent and bills. And can’t get to a decent dr because we are on the lowest Medicaid plan and soon my much needed meds will run out. And I know the rooms in the Lucerne. Used to be $350/night. I booked guest artists there some time ago.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        reply to H:

        I wish i could give advice on all of these issues, but can only do so now on your medical ones. I don’t know what “lowest medicaid level” means but NYC Health+Hospitals (public hospitals) will offer your primary, pediatric, and specialty care and will make sure you are enrolled in a Medicaid program that covers all of this. There is no H+H facility on the UWS but Metropolitan is in East Harlem and a lot of UWSers go to Bellevue (H+H). Harlem Hospital (H+H) is also a few subway stops away. You might also want to try Ryan Health Center. No one in NYC needs to go without medical care!

        H+H offers outstanding care; even our waiting room times are way down.

    18. Claire says:

      If you wanted to live a gated community, move to Long Island. It was naive to think your property values would protect you from sharing your world with people from all walks of life. I don’t remember such privilege on the UWS thirty years ago.

    19. I’m out of here! says:

      300,000 people have moved out of Manhattan (March through October) mostly on the Upper West Side because what is going on the homeless situation living in the hotels and absolutely zero tourism due to the cities issues with the homeless. Foot traffic is down 75%!

      Where are they all going to?

      The most popular places people are moving to, New Jersey, the Hamptons and Hawaii. They are expecting 150,000 move outs by the end of the year.

      • Paul says:

        The majority of “move outs” left for their second homes or their parents houses in great neck and Scarsdale.
        And they’ll be back when things get to normal.

        But the reason your comment is nonsense is that the vast majority were gone before the hotels were converted into shelters.

        • erika says:

          Thank you. So many people are quick to assume why folks have left, and whether or not they’ll be back. I just left the UWS after 28 years, and it wasn’t because of COVID and certainly not because of folks without homes. You can ask my boss, I gave notice back in January.

    20. Ian Alterman says:

      Assuming any one reads this, two facts need to be made clear. First, the placement of homeless persons in hotels is temporary: it was done to provide space in congregate shelters for better social distancing, in order to reduce the spread of the virus and SAVE LIVES. (Which it has done.) Once the crisis is over, those homeless persons will be returned to their congregate shelters.

      Second, if the men are moved they will LOSE many of the services they get at the Lucerne. This includes some of the “internal” services provided by Project Renewal, as well as ALL the services provided by the community, including those through Open Hearts Initiative and the jobs program at Goddard Riverside, which will NOT follow the men downtown.

      • Erika says:

        Thank you for always being a voice of reason, knowledge, and compassion.

      • ES says:

        And they are unable to take a subway up to perform their job? And given that it is Wall Street, isn’t it possible that a wealthy benefactor might be incentivized to fund a trash collection program for the men down there? Is trash collection unique to UWS? It’s 10 hrs per week.

        We already have OneBlock picking up trash for months now. I bet there is a huge opportunity down in Fidi to put men to work where they could make a real impact.

        The issue has never been homelessness but disregard for laws and disrespect for the neighborhood. No neighborhood should have to absorb this. Community goes two ways.

    21. Jack says:

      I’m guessing the “anonymous” donor is the hotel owner who moved away and is making a number of donations in an attempt to sell his hotel (after making a killing off of taxpayers and taking millions in PPP funds).

    22. Hotelier says:

      How will NYC & Company address spin their rhetoric where they take the same press release and say tourism is great. Yet, they don’t track hotels that have been turned into condos/coops/hotel shelters so their inventory is way off. How are they reporting what is an actual tourist when all they do is report if the hotel is full.

    23. Burtnor says:

      Thank you, Da Homeless Hero, as well as Ian, Claire, Erika, Paul, Amy, Bob, Spence, and Sarah for restoring some sanity and compassion to this discussion.

      A few corrections for the “fake news” folks:
      – crime in the district has gone down, not up, according to reports from precinct officials to local community boards.
      – A job is not a PR stunt. Just ask the men who have been sweeping our streets for years through the “Ready, Willing, and Able” program of the Doe Fund:
      – I hear ambulances day and night, and I’m nearly a mile from the Lucerne. It’s not about the hotel. Sirens are everywhere. We are living during COVID, with cases rising again every day.
      – When a commenter says they have lived here for 40 years, why would you doubt that? It seems to be the new arrivals who unconscionably object to some imagined threat to their property values from Lucerne residents and NOT those who remember the real crime rates of the 1970s and 80s. It is the long term residents who restored a liberal attractive community and who now welcome the chance to offer safe housing for homeless people during a pandemic.
      – To get to school or a job on the subway, you need a MetroCard. That’s why community members are providing them.
      – Why do you not care about the hotel owner who is finally getting some income from an otherwise empty property? It would help the economy AND the homeless if more hotels and empty buildings were put to this good use.

      Finally, We should all be extremely grateful to Godard Riverside for stepping up. If other benefactors did so, it would indeed be a model for effective community engagement to help solve the difficult problem of homelessness. Clearly, the city is not up to the job on its own.