The Department of Homeless Services has announced plans for a new homeless shelter at 537 West 59th Street, the current home of the Manhattan News Network. The new shelter, between 10th and 11th Avenue across from John Jay College, is expected to serve 200 women who are experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges, according to DHS. It is scheduled to open in 2023.
The site will be owned and run by Project Renewal, a nonprofit that operates more than a dozen shelters and programs throughout the city. Project Renewal is the organization in charge of the shelter at The Lucerne Hotel on 79th Street.
The new shelter will have on-site services, including counseling, housing placement assistance, medical and mental health services, and workshops for helping people find employment and enhance their life skills. There will be all sorts of off-site services too, including education, health and legal assistance. And DHS plans to work with local officials to help people get jobs in the area. The shelter is expected to give priority to homeless people from Manhattan and the local Community Board 7, which stretches from 59th to 110th on the west side. The site will have 24/7 security and 70 security cameras, DHS said. (Project Renewal directed all questions to DHS.)
DHS had announced plans last year to bring a new shelter to the neighborhood. The announcement came as the department faced pressure from Upper West Siders about quality of life concerns around The Lucerne — DHS had said in September that it would move The Lucerne residents but open a new facility in the neighborhood at an unnamed location. Lawsuits have since delayed the move from The Lucerne.
Those hotels — which are meant to protect homeless people from Covid-19 by giving them separate rooms — will be phased out, DHS reiterated. The timeline for that remains unclear.
“In this neighborhood (Manhattan Community District 7), we will be phasing out all commercial hotel locations (currently providing shelter to 655 New Yorkers experiencing homelessness who would otherwise be turned out onto the streets) by the end of our transformation plan,” a DHS spokesperson wrote.
The Manhattan News Network building had been on the market, with a listing asking for $22.5 million last year.
The new shelter is part of a plan by the city to end the use of apartment buildings and hotels as homeless shelters. Those shelters often don’t have adequate services for homeless people and have sometimes been placed in neighborhoods with limited notice or an “emergency basis” that can leave neighbors feeling blindsided. They’ve also been criticized for being much too expensive. These “cluster sites” started before Mayor de Blasio took office, and he’s vowed to end them by 2021, but there’s been no quick fix given the rising homeless population. Shelters in apartment buildings on West 95th Street drew community backlash under Mayor Bloomberg.
DHS says it notified local community leaders about the shelter on December 30.
Update: Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s spokesperson told us she did not have any information beyond what we have reported, and did not express an opinion on the site. Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal also said she had received the basic details (we initially reported incorrectly that she said she hadn’t heard of the plans).
Community Board 7 was notified, and the prior chair of the board sent follow-up questions to DHS that the board is awaiting answers on, according to new chair Steven Brown. It wasn’t discussed at Tuesday’s full board meeting, but may be a topic in the future. “Moving forward, I am going to meet with the appropriate committees and hope to speak with DHS directly so that we are fully informed as we move forward,” Brown told West Side Rag.
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