Court Says Homeless Men Can Stay at The Lucerne


A rally outside The Lucerne last year.

The homeless men living at The Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street have the right to stay there while judges consider their case in more detail, a state appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling means that men will likely be able to stay at the hotel for months, defying a city order to move them to a Radisson hotel downtown. Mayor de Blasio — under pressure from some Upper West Siders — had announced in October that the conditions around the Lucerne were “unacceptable,” and that they should be moved elsewhere. But the city’s attempts to move the men have been stymied and delayed by various court decisions.

Based on Tuesday’s ruling, the men can decide to relocate to The Radisson or stay at The Lucerne.

Attorney Michael Hiller, who represents men at The Lucerne called the ruling “a huge victory, not only for the men of the Lucerne, but also for homeless residents throughout the City.”

The ruling means that “not only can the men of the Lucerne remain there, at least pending the appeal, but further, those who want to leave may also do so,” he said. “In this way, today’s decision, though temporary, is truly empowering to homeless residents who are fighting for their right to be heard and ultimately, for their dignity.”

The West Side Community Organization, which has pushed for the men to leave, wrote in a statement that the ruling gives the men a choice — and that leaving is better for their own well-being. The group warned that the men who choose to stay “will continue to be in limbo with no certainty as to their permanent residency plan and displaced from vital on-site recovery and medical services,” while those who leave will be closer to their service providers.

UWS Open Hearts, a group that has supported the men, also released a statement that urged the mayor to change his decision.

“We hope the Mayor will at long last do the right thing, stop spending our tax dollars to fight homeless men in court, and focus on using the Radisson Hotel — which has been sitting practically empty — to safely house people sleeping on the streets or still in congregate shelters,” the statement says.

NEWS | 78 comments | permalink
    1. Jerome36 says:

      This is beyond crazy. The time, money, and effort spent on this is mind boggling.
      I just don’t understand how people who are getting housing for free are allowed to choose where they want to live. I believe Everyone should have a roof over their head. But if NYC wants to move you, you should be required to go. Simple!

      • World Peacenik says:

        Are you saying that people without money are at the control of government?

      • J. L. Rivers says:

        Sounds very logical and fair until it’s you becomes homeless and then the talk about humane treatment of unlucky people starts making sense.

    2. That was rich says:

      So now the economist Corinne Low is concerned abt the efficient use of “tax dollars” when the city has already spent over $300mn renting hotel rooms to warehouse mentally ill, addicted men with no proper services. Plus several other millions in daily EMS and NYPD “visits.” FEMA has not covered one cent thus far and tab is likely half a billion by now… but she is concerned abt tax dollars of two or three lawyers? why insist in such structure that does not recover anyone?

    3. CGK says:

      In fact, there *are services at the Lucerne. It really is astonishing that opponents continue to falsely claim that there aren’t.

      Re: spending money – other cities, and other countries, are doing the same. Using vacant hotels to house the homeless in order to protect them during a pandemic. This is a basic public health measure.

      • lynn says:

        Why all the comments about the EMS being there on a regular basis if there are medical/drug rehab services at the Lucerne?

        • Peter says:

          Because “services offered” is different from “services used.”

          Noone in there has any obligation or responsibility to avail themselves to any services offered. And compelling them, or achieving some semblance of outcome-based efficiency, is absolutely not a priority to anyone “managing” this.

          So, as you can imagine, it’s become mostly a political soundbite, so that the Helen Rosenthals can pat themselves on the back, while the ambulances keep rolling thru daily.

      • Westsidegal says:

        @CGK what services are offered? Do you have a list?

        To my knowledge these men are being offered 1 hour walks with clergy and 1 AA meeting a week.

        These are not sufficient services.

    4. CrankyPants says:

      What a joke our “justice” system is. This is a victory for no one.

    5. Otis says:

      I thought this was supposed to be a “temporary” situation.

    6. Dany says:

      I’m happy to move downtown and get room to myself.
      Only the pets of the hearts group got own rooms at lucerne.

    7. Tom says:

      Why won’t the Westside Rag report on the aggressive panhandling by these men?

      My mother, age 87, had a man from the Lucerne get in her face at Duane Reade at 79th/Amsterdam demanding money. She ended up giving him $ 5 to move away from her.

      What about her safety?
      Does it matter to the politicians or Open Hearts group that she could get Covid and die?

      Btw. He didn’t even buy anything at DR, just walked back into the Lucerne.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        The men at the Lucerne are not permitted to panhandle, and don’t do so, because if they are caught (and there is a security person on the corner of 79th/Broadway all day), they will lose their bed.

        You are conflating them with the street homeless.

    8. Rory says:

      As a EMS worker who resides on 79th and Amsterdam, I have to say the services provided at the hotel are nil.
      Every day and night, we have 4-5 ambulances there a day due to drug overdoses.

    9. Big Earl says:

      With so many hard working people trying their best to stay afloat, it’s pathetic to see so much money and resources thrown at an issue with no resolve. Sadly, the four homeless guys who work our intersection all day long are here to stay. They bring absolutely nothing positive to this neighborhood.

      • World Peacenik says:

        Hey Big Earl,

        Do you feel that if people don’t meet your standards for contributing they should be thrown out of your neighborhood?

        • LYJ says:

          Families and tax contributing residents who lost their jobs and businesses cannot pay rent or mortgages and are struggling to feed their kids get 0 support from the city, let alone 4 stars free hotel accommodation. So it is not issue of standards, but of a proportion.

          • World Peacenik says:

            LYJ,

            While I do wish there were more done for residents who lost their jobs and businesses, I see no help resulting from removing support from these men.

    10. Dang says:

      Ridiculous amount of drug dealing at 79th and Broadway and 77th and Broadway.
      A year ago, there were no drug dealers here.

      Pretty furious that my 14 year old son was approached to buy drugs buy a man at the church on W79th.

      • Ian Alterman says:

        There us no longer any drug dealing by men from the Lucerne. All of those who had been doing so for the first few weeks were removed, and security had been tightened.

        You are conflating the street homeless with the residents of the hotel. Don’t forget that the MTA closed the subways to the homeless for several months, forcing hundreds more homeless persons to the surface, increasing the number of street homeless by almost 50%. THAT is why there has been an increase in homeless persons in our neighborhood, and an increase in crimes like drug dealing. Get your facts straight.

    11. 72RSD says:

      So now we know: whenever any private space in the neighborhood is used to create temporary shelter, it will become permanent no matter what. It will now become impossible to open any temporary shelter anywhere in the city, as everyone will know it’s impossible to ever close.

    12. Stephen says:

      I moved out of the UWS as I could not afford it. I’m now in Queens and commute to work every day.

      Why do these men get to decide where they want to live? In four-star hotels?

      • World Peacenik says:

        Strange to covet a drug dependent’s support? But I guess you want what you have AND you want anything that is provided to those who require help.

        Anything else you want?

        • LYJ says:

          It’s a discriminatory and immoral treatment by the city to waste public funding on luxury housing in prime location on a certain group on the account of others residents that have the right to receive equal care and support.

          • World Peacenik says:

            Your morality is to provide help to other people, rather than these men.

            My morality tells me that these men require help.

            • Jimmy says:

              Stop gaslighting. It’s embarrassing for you. There is no reason the city should be spending this inefficiently. They have a limited budget and could be spending in a way that enables them to help more people, including other people experiencing homelessness and small businesses. Instead the only people they are really helping are the hotel owners. It’s so odd how myopically focused some activists are around the Lucerne vs. the greater good and trying to do more with less (since NYC’s balance sheet will definitely be down next year).

      • Ian Alterman says:

        Thuy did not CHOOSE to be placed in the hotel. The City had to de-densify the congregate shelters in order to prevent a rapid spread of the virus. Blame the mayor and City, not the men.

    13. Gregory Frederick says:

      Thank you, UWS and community advocates. As a resident of the Lucerne I have xperienced compassion, empathy, and an immeasurable kind of humanity absent from my life for far too long. I appreciate and treasure the opportunity to realign my life along similar values and will forever remember my time here as affirmation of the overall humanity of this community. As a multi-media artist, I am seeing my work reflect my life situation(s) and look forward with a renewed sense of vision, energy, and hope.
      Peace and health and blessings,
      G. Frederick, MFA, MPS

      • kaylord says:

        So glad you have somewhere safe to live. Wishing you the best in 2021!

      • Erica says:

        Thank goodness you’re finding your footing. As you’ve seen, there is more good than bad in our community.

      • Astrid says:

        How long do you plan to stay at the Lucerne?

        • Ian Alterman says:

          As with any resident of the Lucerne, they will be there until either they get placed in permanent housing or it becomes safe for the City to move them back to their congregate shelters.

      • LivableCity says:

        Wishing you only the best, Mr Frederick. It is truly a silver lining of this difficult time that many formerly unhorsed New Yorkers have found steady shelter for at least some months. Thank you for your perspective.

        For those at the Lucerne who need more than the services available, what are your thoughts? Are there really multiple ambulance visits daily to treat overdoses? Do you think some folks might be better off elsewhere? Or is this the “least bad” setup you can see for them?

      • Amy Birnbaum says:

        We are rooting for your success!!! I’m thrilled to know that the amount of love and positivity coming from your supporters supersedes those who want to remove you. These are hard times for millions of people and rather than kicking people while there down, there will always be people who want to re build and support ! Keep up the great work and incredible attitude !

    14. Ian Alterman says:

      As a matter of law, once it was filed (which was done a few days after the judge’s decision), the men’s attorneys have six months to finalize the appeal. That brings us to May. The City then has 30 days to file its opposition, which brings us to June. And then it has to be scheduled for oral arguments, which can take weeks to months, particularly with an ongoing pandemic and a hugely backlogged appeals calendar.

      Thus, in effect, the men at the Lucerne are now safe until at least early summer, if not longer (assuming they are not safely returned to congregate shelter before that). Which means that the City and the opposition have won exactly ZERO, despite their vilifying and scapegoating.

      • Jill says:

        Pretty sure everyone is losing in this situation. Well, except Helen, who gets her photo ops.

        So sad and heartless that people would oppose a move that would be beneficial to these men. It sounds like the Raddison would be a much better setting. And a better use of city funds.

      • js says:

        Mr. Alterman,
        But if any find permanent housing, wouldn’t they move to permanent housing?
        Isn’t permanent housing the actual goal?

        • Da Homeless Hero says:

          Good point. Since our first TRO, nearly 100 people have moved into permanent housing. That is nearly 100 in less than two months. Which is unheard of in the shelter system. I would hope we can empty the building of that momentum continued. I was told that a move to the Radisson would stop that process and people would be lingering longer in the Radisson.

          • Westsidegal says:

            So the head count at the Lucerne is currently 183 or less?

            • Ian Alterman says:

              Not quite. New men are moved in to replace hem, though not nearly at the same rate as men leave.

          • Emma says:

            So, these men would not have been able to turn their lives around if not for the Lucerne? Does the Lucerne have some magic powers? Odd to credit the hotel vs the individuals. What exactly about the Raddison would make it any different? Too many amenities? Too many Wall Street bros? No magic? Did someone commission a study on this? Ridiculous.

      • Beth says:

        @Ian Alterman – I have been routinely disappointed by your negative comments about those who oppose the Lucerne shelter. I live further north on the UWS and have twice experienced the disruptive introduction of hundreds of homeless people into our neighborhood. It can be exhausting – the aggressive panhandling, the public urination, the “sprawled out” loitering, the open drug use and drug dealing. Granted, not every homeless person engages in these activities. However, homelessness presents a major quality of life issue. Having spent time in many different neighborhoods throughout NYC, the fact is that there are very few neighborhoods across the five boroughs that are expected to house as many homeless as the UWS and West Harlem.

        In addition, as a Catholic I have been taught to accept those with opposing views to mine with the rationale being that they mean well, even if they don’t agree with you. While it can be difficult for me to deal with Trumpers for example, I strive not to be disrespectful or disparaging. I find your frequent (and sometimes aggressive) dismissals of those who oppose the placement of homeless people in the Lucerne to not be in keeping with the teachings of Christianity.

        • HelloUWS says:

          Yes, unfortunately Ian thinks he is better than the rest of us and full of empathy and good deeds. He attacks anyone who has an opinion or experience about what has happened to our neighborhood including the behavior and issues around the Lucerne. He calls people all sorts of names.

          Denial and misleading the public is what we see elsewhere and it is on display by what he says here. We are all bad people unless we agree with minister Ian who pats himself on the back for being a great human being and he loves it when some people praise him. He has claimed that he uses angry language because Jesus did it. While he does provide some information about the Lucerne, most of what he does is not useful language and approach to a productive debate.

    15. Jeff says:

      It’s time for the City to end it’s contract with the Lucerne and let the owner who cashed in figure out how to get these people out of his building. He thought he would make out like a bandit and not have to deal….he helped create the situation let him figure it out,

      • Ian Alterman says:

        Why would he want to do that during a pandemic when so tourists are coming into the City to use the hotel anyway? He should be happy as a lark that he is getting money for rooms that would otherwise be empty.

    16. Westender says:

      At some point, doesn’t the Lucerne get to return to its regular business model? Or are they now beholden by squatters’ rights to their new tenant roster for the indefinite future? (For all we know, they prefer this, particularly right now, but at some point I imagine they’d want to get back into the hotel business.)

    17. Katherine says:

      Utterly disgusting.

      I will never vote Democrat locally again. This is what it gets you.

    18. Juan says:

      I do not see why these men are not put near the top of the vaccine list like those who are in jail so that they can return to their high density housing environment. The purpose of moving them out of their original residence was to make it safer during the pandemic. This was not meant to be a long-term solution.

      So let’s make them safe and move on. I’m sorry that they prior living quarters were not as nice but c’est la vie.

    19. Dory says:

      Completely baffled?

      If the Radisson has single rooms for these men, why is anyone fighting this?

      Right now, most of the men are doubled up at the Lucerne…. how does one socially distance if you are sharing a room?

      Why would anyone be against the men having their own rooms downtown?

      I am new to the area, and trying to figure this out.
      Thanks

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        Just to clarify, nearly 100 people have been transferred to permanent housing and there are plenty of single rooms in the Lucerne. Also, the ruling today has allowed anyone who wants a single room can go to the Radisson under the shelter provider that is now occupying that hotel.

        • lynn says:

          Will you have to go through this legal process again in May/June, or is there a good chance that you will be able to get permanent housing before that time?

          • Da Homeless Hero says:

            The hope is for us to move from here to permanent housing. The real criteria center on whether or not it’s safe to go back to congregate shelters. If that decision was made next week we’d be moved back to those shelters. Hopefully, in the meantime, they reconfigure those congregate settings to be safer. This is not proposed to be a permanent shelter so this will have its due date. Just not now, in the middle of a pandemic.

            • lynn says:

              It seems a little late in the game for the city to start reconfiguring congregate settings. I hope this will all be over soon and you’ll be moved directly to permanent housing.

    20. World Peacenik says:

      The group [West Side Community Organization] warned that the men who choose to stay “will continue to be in limbo with no certainty as to their permanent residency plan and displaced from vital on-site recovery and medical services,” while those who leave will be closer to their service providers.

      Stop threatening these men!

      Ugly

      • Betty says:

        Hilarious. Pretty sure it’s the BleedingHearts that are keeping these men in limbo.

        • Ian Alterman says:

          No one is “in limbo.” The system for getting the men into permanent housing has been working. Thus far, almost 100 men have moved into permanent housing since they were moved in in late July.

    21. Julie says:

      Someone needs to do some investigative reporting on why the city is spending $350 a night at the Lucerne when there are empty hotels at a 1/3 of the price at the airports.

      • LYJ says:

        At that time i sent a query to the Mayor Office to know what was the basis for the selection of and contract award to the Lucern and whether there was a competitive and fair public bidding process. Needless to say that no response was provided.

        • badawy says:

          No community wants homeless shelters in their community. Communities near airports don’t want shelters and these are mostly minority communities.

      • UWShumor says:

        Here is the story:

        There was once a mayor looking for donors to back him up for reelection and made a sweet and lucrative deal with a bunch of hotel owners among other groups. Unfortunately for the mayor and his staff, it was time to pay up his dues to the hotel owners as an ugly pandemic hit the city which made hotel owners stop making money.

        At the same time another powerful politician in the city requested to move some shelter residents out of a midtown hotel due to many issues of safety and drugs. So this is when a clever scheme was hatched to secretly move the unruly drug addicts (of course not all of them) and unruly men to the Lucerne over a weekend in July where no-one knew about except for the mayor, the DHS, and the hotel owner. Even the local politician on the UWS was caught by surprise (as she was lame duck waiting for her term to end) and started to stutter back and forth about how bad it was that this happened and then changed her tune to see how she could use this opportunity to see if she can get a job as she was losing hers soon.

        The mayor thought this is great I can pay my dues to the hotel owner, make the midtown politician (who might have become the new mayor one day) happy, and do all of this by using the FEMA money which is not mine. And surely the men will be happy to move into a plush hotel that costs like $300-350 a nite. He thought to himself that everyone will finally see how smart he is.

        The residents of the community who were faced with 3 hotels in the 10 block area turning to homeless shelters and the background of the unruly single men got worried about drug addicted people moving into the neighborhood that was full of families and kids.

        Soon everyone started to have a say and turn this into another one of these divided issues we cannot resolve in the city, government or country. Everyone started to come in for photo ops and rhetoric and the mayor was getting a backlash, so he thought if they moved the men, the noise would go away, and no-one will know what happened. But this made a lot of people mad such as the hotel owner would stop making money, the politicians would lose their moment of media presence, the downtown community would have to endure the issues of housing drug addicted and unruly men and many others who wanted to use this for their fame and way to make money, lawyers, the homeless men at the shelter, advocacy groups, etc. etc. So the confusion and mess continued, and no-one wanted to make a final decision, including the judges who were happy to pass the ball to someone else.

        A year went by and the men were still at the Lucerne but at this point the city was bankrupt and the people on the UWS who used to live there moved out of the city and the neighborhood became a homeless shelter funded by no-one. The mayor went on to live in Russia where he could hang with his friends and drink vodka. The new city mayor was someone from the Lucerne.

        *** Disclaimer: this is a fictional story that some might find funny

        WSR says: This story far exceeds the 100-word limit, but we made an exception in appreciation of the creativity.

        • West Side Story part2 says:

          UWShumor, great story!
          Fantastic neighborhood’s rise and fall.
          I want to see this in Musical theater or DVD. Local performing artists are waiting for next gig.

        • UWShumor says:

          WSR Thank you.
          We appreciate your service to our UWS community.

        • Ground Control says:

          It is funny. And very sadly it is true. A lot of opportunists stepped up here. And while you can’t blame anyone homeless or otherwise for wanting to be housed in an expensive hotel for as long as possible paid for by the city, the problem of homelessness was not really helped. Homeless people all over the city live in often substandard congregate settings. Did this issue advance their situation? They still live all over the streets and often in poor mental and physical condition. If this situation on the UWS put a spotlight on how poorly the city deals with homelessness, I’d say great. It may have helped this small group of men or it may not have. But it has not advanced the homelessness problem or conditions in this city. And those who live and work and pay taxes in this community who are compassionate and very generous who had serious concerns about the conditions and safety of their neighborhoods were utterly ignored. And in addition they were mocked and demeaned and called heartless when some of the things they witnessed with increasing frequency in their neighborhoods were intolerable. This exercise was like putting your finger in a dyke.

      • Jake says:

        Thats easy. The owners of the Lucerne,Bellclaire and Belnord are all Duhblasio donators.

    22. World Peacenik says:

      “Mayor de Blasio — under pressure from some Upper West Siders — had announced in October that the conditions around the Lucerne were “unacceptable,” and that they should be moved elsewhere.”

      This stain remains on the neighborhood. It is dark and indelible.

    23. Elizabeth shackelford says:

      For a so called bastion of liberalism,the West Siders who want to kick the homeless out of the Lucerne is a lesson in the typical NIMBY hypocrisy. I have lived on the UWS for a half century. I remember the days when we looked after the poor and homeless right in our own back yard where they were part of the scene.

    24. cma says:

      Does anybody know if the effort by a former Community Board #7 member (Elizabeth Caputo) to bring the “two sides” together (WSCO and Open Heart) for conversation is happening? There was an article in The(West Side) Spirit mid-November about it. Doesn’t seem like that has happened. I was hopeful.

    25. charles becker says:

      Who speaks for the middle class working in PRIVATE industry who are barely surviving in NYC?

      • Buddy Revell says:

        Nobody. NYC is the laughingstock of the country. Seriously, the amount of tax payer money used to support homeless housing is mind blowing. It should be used as a case study on excessive waste. This city is broke/broken.

        Liberals are just like conservatives and their gun culture. Bigger and more liberalism is better. When will common sense prevail?

    26. bidenot says:

      Great news for all the snowflakes residing in the UWS.
      Your not so new neighbors are here to stay, past your rent leases and past your mortgages being paid. Like FOREVER!
      Help thy neighbor is the word, so get in line – as the government is telling you it’s raining while pissing on your head – to quote Lyndon Baines Johnson.

    27. Ms.V. McCormick says:

      Why not use both locations?
      Split the cost between the two because many mentally challenged do NOT DO WELL WITH CHANGE!

    28. Waki says:

      Reading through the comments, I am appalled at how some people make this about having compassion
      Compassion yes, but use common sense for God’s sakes! Why place the homeless in the middle of a densely populated residential area in the first place when you have so many empty hotels in the city elsewhere? Just take a look at midtown and FD!
      Was it not possible to provide shelter & care for our homeless if they weren’t placed in an UWS hotel?
      Why was it so important for the mayor to support The Lucerne’s owner? Something’s fishy there…
      The only people who are winning from this situation are the many lawyers the city, neighborhood groups & others have hired to take this case to court and The Lucerne owner who is happy to be making money during the pandemic