By Carol Tannenhauser
Two weeks ago, the proposed “safe haven” at 106-108 West 83rd Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, was the target of a neighborhood protest. On Monday, more people from the neighborhood gathered there – this time, members of the nonprofit Open Hearts Initiative, who set up a temporary “free store” as an example of what the group plans to provide for residents of the safe haven the city expects to open there in late April.
“Open Hearts is trying to challenge the pushback and the dehumanization against new neighbors, and to welcome folks and offer support,” Sara Newman said. Newman, director of organizing for Open Hearts, said it’s her job to help local chapters organize events like this one across the city. Open Hearts was founded in 2020 on the Upper West Side, in response to the situation at The Lucerne hotel, when some locals reacted negatively to the homeless men who were moved there during the pandemic. Some critics have claimed that Open Hearts is made up of paid activists from outside the neighborhood. “I live in Manhattan, a little north of here,” Newman replied, when asked where she lives.
The city’s plans for a safe haven would create a form of transitional housing for people who are homeless and eschew traditional homeless shelters, choosing instead to live on the streets or subways. Safe havens are a relatively new pathway to permanent housing that, on the spectrum of living arrangements in New York City are, literally, the first step up from the streets. They bypass the bureaucracy of entering traditional homeless shelters, and are smaller, with single, double and triple rooms, offering more privacy and individualized, wrap-around services.
On Monday, the Open Hearts pop-up “free store” consisted of two folding tables holding toiletries, such as Irish Spring soap, Colgate toothpaste, and Bombas socks. The sidewalk around them was covered with pastel-colored chalk markings: hearts and messages of welcome. The “store” is similar to what Open Hearts set up for residents of The Lucerne and the Hotel Belleclaire, when the city moved homeless men into those and other Upper West Side hotels as part of an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 in crowded congregate shelters during the pandemic.
One local resident who came Monday to volunteer at the free store was Gayle Meyer, the parent of a seventh grader who attends The Center School, directly across the street from the safe haven. The proximity of the school, as well as of P.S. 9, an elementary school in the same building, is one of the greatest points of contention for those opposing the facility. On March 23, a group of about 25 parents, neighbors, and politicians gathered on the same sidewalk to protest. Those who came Monday had some different perspectives.
“We got involved as a family when The Lucerne opened up,” Meyer said. “We were living very close by and wanted to see how we could support it. This safe haven is a transitional housing option that we believe more homeless people will take advantage of, because of the way it is structured. What we have shared with our kids — and they get involved as much as we do — is that we would rather have people be securely sheltered on their way to permanent housing.”
Thank you Gayle Meyer and thank you Open Hearts! I appreciate hearing from people who want to improve and help others. Have a safe place to sleep, use the bathroom and keep ones belongings will reduce homelessness and stabilize a vulnerable population.
No, having a come-and-go-as-you-please, medication-optional, no-supervision flophouse will ENABLE homelessness, and increase hostile, criminal, and violent interactions with everyday citizens of the neighborhood, trying to go about their everyday business.
If you build it, they will come…as will their drug dealers, etc.
Let’s be sure to profile people experiencing homelessness while living in the lap of luxury. Maybe volunteer to help out and better your community rather than being inhumane and hostile.
So, you’re criticizing people for profiling homeless people while you’re profiling commenters as being well-off. No hypocrisy there.
There is nothing inhumane in being concerned with the safety of our children. I came to this country as a penniless immigrant, a minority, to escape war, and worked hard to achieve a decent life for my family. Who are you to tell me, that I should take time away from my children to deal with people who have wasted opportunities billions of people worldwide would give their right arm for?
I hear you. I came here 30 years ago, worked all possible jobs. Now am very frustrated that we, hard-working families, are called names for trying to protect our children.
Unfortunately this is a. low-barrier, no resident vetting, project. The building owners are thePoldosky brothers, who are considered two of the City’s worst landlords. It is likely they will be the main beneficiaries of this project. To my mind, the issue here is not one of open hearts, but one of good governance.. I’m not seeing that.
can open hearts be sued, when a child in the school on the corner is molested or worse. will tannenbaum print this, dont think so
A child in the school on the corner is far more likely to be molested by a family member or family friend than by some random unhoused person.
As a child who was taken advantage of by a neighbor – I find this reprehensible that you would make this statement.
Let me help you out here how sex offenders work – it is proximity.
Oh, but they are not random. They are neighbors.
This is some statement! Sarah, are you living in a real world?!!
And you know this how?
According to my last reading on this 93% of cold molestations are by people they know
I love this statistics free interpretation. Let’s say you are in prison – you are still more likely to be molested by a relative?
Well, children’s proximity to a place housing mentally ill and formerly incarcerated is a significant criteria. So please don’t play lose and fast with statistics
The placement of this kind of shelter is a head scratcher. We are told that the population it is designed to attract don’t wander too far from where they reside. There is not currently a street homeless population by that site. Broadway is another story. If what the experts say is true, then our local street homeless who live on Broadway or south on Columbus will stay where they are and the 108 beds will be filled by whom? New street homeless from other parts of the city?
Thanks again for continuing to describe the difference between a “safe haven” and a shelter. Many readers don’t seem to understand that shelters are really “night shelters” – that by not allowing residents inside during the day, shelters do not reduce the number of people with no place to go who may pass their days on the street. I hope the “safe haven” model does more, not to lock people up, but to offer a dignified and humane alternative to the street as well as a base for respite and treatment.
They’re not gonna stay inside all day. They’re going to be on the streets either way.
It seems to me the vast majority of residents in the neighborhood are very much against this homeless shelter.
Open Hearts are a tiny minority of guilt ridden liberals.
As someone who does live here – I dislike all the drug dealers that come to the neighborhood.
And here’s the rub – drug dealers are not inherently good folks.
They will deal drugs to whomever is passing by and terrible to say – they will push drugs also to expand their customer base.
How would Sarah Newman feel about it if she had kids attending this school?
Or her children lived on this street?
What a hypocrite.
I support the safe haven and am to the left of liberal. The right keep referring to “ guilt ridden” leftists and liberals.Such an empty cliche. The only thing I feel guilty about is breaking my brother’s toy train when I was 8 and he was 5. Where does this “guilt ridden” nonsense come from? The right assumes defending the poor can’t come from the belief that it’s the correct thing to do, so therefore we must feel guilty. About what I remain unsure.
These are not poor people. These are people who are most likely seriously ill psychologically or drug addicts, and at least some have committed crimes in the past. Many of us, including yours truly, have been as poor as church mice. Poverty is not a sin nor is it a danger to neighbors; being a drug addict or mentally ill is!
And what the hell is Otis’s evidence of said claim?
Liberals and progressives continue to win all West Side elections by wide margins, whereas the more right wing faction has yet to come close. One piece of evidence that Otis is wrong.
Nope, this just show that people don’t vote. Mainly the group of lefty “activists” does.
In over 50 years living on the UWS, I can tell you that, in Manhattan (not just the UWS), Democrats consistently get ~85% of the vote in any local, city or State race. That is true no matter what percentage of non-Democratic voters come out to vote. So, no, you are not correct.
Really? What about Giuliani’s and Bloomberg’s mayoral runs? What about Hochul’s re-election bid? Care to provide evidence for your unsupported claims?
I don’t think you read my comment right. I said that most people don’t vote. Only die-hard left do, hence 85 percent. That’s how De Blasio got elected.
Looks like the supporters do not live on this block. Easy to support it when you don’t live next to it.
I have lived on 83rd Street for over 50 years, and I support it. So does the Block Association that has represented West 83rd Street for over 50 years. Nice try, though.
Many there yesterday do live and work and send their children to school on the block. Additional neighbors stopped by to give support and bring additional toiletries. Previous story quoted a next door neighbor in support. Where are you getting your facts?
Probably 100 % of the supporters do not live on this block, But it seems OK? with the school right across the street so the future is in their hands.
I live a block away – on 83rd – I support providing humane services to people, who in many cases are victims themselves.
Some of them are. Others are not and dangerous to us and our children
So it is fine with you that it is directly across the school. Ok
It is not “okay” with the school, the principal wasn’t even made aware of the plans until it was published in the news. Many parents, myself included, are extremely concerned with the proximity to the kindergarten and pre-k playground.
Gale Brewer had the chutzpah to go to the PS9 auction Saturday night and act like she was doing great things for the school. The parents were far too nice and didn’t boo her off the stage – I think they were all in shock.
So is the school just powerless & has no say?
So it seems
Please profile the women who will be frightened, harassed, and endangered by bringing a large quantity of unstable men in their close vicinity. What will it be like for them, when they are attacked for walking their dog after dark — and then blamed for being out after dark in the first place?
It is now our fault for taking the subway or walking outside when we are attacked or mugged or raped. Women have no rights anymore on the UWS.
Excellent “story-telling photo”!!
One minor suggestion: in PhotoShop or similar tool CROP AWAY the person at right edge, because:some would say her orange outfit “pulls” the viewer’s eye away from the “story” (the people around the table). Although others would say she IS part of the story.
So refreshing to see this instead of the horrific treatment people experiencing homelesness usually get, often from upper crust types who will never know what it means to truly struggle in an inhumane system.
Yeah, free Medicaid, food stamps, housing, welfare, phones, etc… A few billion people worldwide would love to get a chance to partake of this “inhumane” system!
The world is not black and white. I am very strongly against this. I do not believe a facility like this should exist across the street from a school, particularly unless there is 100% assurance that there will be proper support in place.
That being said, I appreciate the efforts of this group. If the place is opening, might as well make the best of it.
However, when it came to the Lucerne, members of this group were the ones who made anyone opposed to it out to be cold, heartless souls and they constantly denied that anything bad was happening there, even though it was painfully obvious to everyone what was happening. They seemed to prioritize their need to be do-gooders over the safety of the neighborhood. And that is not right.
I was just attacked by a homeless guy at CPW and w 64 st.!!!! Just 3 hours ago! After speaking with the police and while making it home only 7 blocks away, I encountered 5 or 5 more crazies!!
What is wrong with the people who “welcome” those but don’t care about our safety?
I’m very sorry for what happened to you, MJB.
Ian Alterman here with his incomprehensible comment seems to be with Open Hearts. Quite hearts…
And what on God’s great earth does your (admittedly horrific) experience have to do with this particular facility – or ANY facility, for that matter? How do you know where the person who attacked you lives (or doesn’t)? Sorry, but you don’t get to conflate your personal experience – no matter how bad – with something COMPLETELY irrelevant.
Ian – I do get to voice my personal experiences here – because I am an older woman who has been harassed for $ constantly by homeless men.
I am an easy target.
Sorry, but you don’t get an opinion as you have absolutely no idea unless you have a mother, wife or daughter… then maybe – you would care about THEIR safety.
But, you don’t seem to care about safety for women, the elderly or children.
You remind me of the rich liberals sipping their lattes living in the Hamptons –
Al Sharpton line – but I think it is pretty apt.
Who gets hurt here?
The folks who can not afford to take an Uber or send their kids to private school.
He has every right to post his opinion here. I honestly think he’s being trolled at this point though, because some of these comments are really out of left field. ‘Sipping their lattes living in the Hamptons?’
Just shows that the supporters of the homeless are totally heartless toward us, locals. You didn’t express any empathy to me who was attacked, yet keep defending ALL homeless. You are out of line saying that Ian is trolled. Ian’s comment is hurtful.
We are all complete strangers here.
Would hope that a minister would comment in a way that teaches – not criticizing those who have concerns.
He is a minister?! My God, I thought he is self-appointed community leader. That make his comment even worse.
How dare you to diminish what happened to me yesterday by your heartless comment?! The mentally ill homeless person attacked me and you dismiss it as irrelevant?! I’m worried about other people too as the person seemed to me deranged.
You dismissed my very relevant personal experience because of what? Your partisan view on the homeless shelters?
Thank God, the officers at the scene and the witness were sympathetic unlike you. You response is very upsetting.
You should sue. If something , God forbid, happens to my children or my wife, I’m surely suing all involved – providers, Open Hearts, Gale Brewer.
Horrific! Are you ok?
I’m ok physically. It was quite a scare. I was worried for the people in the park because this violent homeless ran there afterwards. The officers sent his description to the officers in the park.
As each new shelter or services for homeless are or have been announced for west side (migrants, homeless moved into local hotels during covid, etc…) there always is this or that group who welcomes them with open arms.
So called “community outrage” is drowned out by this support and is part of reason why things happen regardless.
West side in particular UWS voters largely skew liberal democrat. Thus mayors, those elected to Albany or city hall know they can do what they want regardless.
I don’t think so, since most of the earliest articles were about “community outrage.” So how, exactly, do they get “drowned out” by articles mentioning the other side? Nope.
Interestingly, there is a law in place that does not allow a bar within 500 feet of a school. One might wonder why such a law isn’t in place for safe havens and/or shelters.
I thought it came up at a CB meeting that the speakers at Open Hearts did not live on the UWS.
I do hope they screen for people who have criminal records and sex offenders. A child in my family was followed by someone who was at The Lucerne. Praying that doesn’t happen again to anyone or, for that matter, any crime.
As most people here know, I worked with Open Hearts with regard to the Lucerne and Belleclaire. And as a 50+-year UWSer, I can assure you that most of the leaders, and many of the members, of Open Hearts are UWSers themselves, many living within easy walking distance of this facility.
Ian – my neighbors child ( a young girl age 12 and she looks like 12) was harassed by the men at the Lucerne. I guess they thought it was funny? Or maybe they were to high or drunk to notice she was 12 YEARS OLD.
Shame on you – she was terrified to go out for months and her dad had to walk her everywhere.
Do you know the men were drunk and wasted everyday.
Do you know there were deaths there.
Do you know there were fires there.
Do you know there were drug dealers there.
Do you know the police and ambulances were there everyday!
What a conflation of critiques.
There is a liquor store and there are at least 3 bars across the street from the school plus 2 weed dispensaries that say “candy” so not sure that argument holds any weight.
Fact: 1 in every 10 NYC public school children are housing insecure and they are integrated into all communities along with their families. They are our neighbors and classmates and assets to our community regardless of socioeconomic status. Your suggestion to cast away shelters is harmful.
You seem to not understand the difference between a shelter and a safe haven. They are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. Safe havens help a different segment of the populations and do save lives.
Awful that something happened to someone on your family and that that isolated incident has caused you to blame all unhoused people with inflexible generalizations. What we are asking of you is what we are asking of our new neighbors – to let go of what you think you know and old models that made people statistics and trust a more innovative solution to building trust, humanity and stabilizing our community. It sounds radical but it’s already working in many communities. Why not here?
This is the classic UWS idiocracy. Just like restaurants consuming every inch of city avenues and bike lanes that are empty 90% of the day, public policy on the UWS is designed to have anyone who has the means and resources to leave and move elsewhere to do exactly that. Why stay in a neighborhood filled with these elements which are undesirable,?
I always laugh when someone throws out a meaningless statistic like a 90% empty rate for bike lanes. Not only is that far from accurate but it implies that you did a comprehensive traffic study over multiple days & times as qualified professionals do to arrive at such conclusions. Did you happen to come to the same conclusion about left turn lanes which are mostly unoccupied compared to the adjacent thru lanes at a moment in time?
Oh. That explains why million dollar condos are being built all over the neighborhood and why prices continue to rise.
Thanks for the clarity.
And thank heavens for the million dollar condos because the UWS needs every income level to survive. Ask your local small businesses how they feel. We are thankful that building is finally taking place.
The people who support the local businesses (paying for things). We need those people to move here and take up residence. Hate them if you want, maybe it is jealousy, but they keep the businesses afloat. Businesses that create jobs for local neighbors.
Here’s a thought. Maybe it’s time for all “sides” to move towards compromise and mutual understanding? Acknowledge the beliefs, fears and concerns neighbors have, Some may be based on assumptions or some are based on actual lived experiences, as folks like to say these days. Stop arguing, gaslighting, denying , and debating. Stop the name calling. Validate people’s concerns (you don’t have to agree with them) and find solutions. Stop making assumptions about intent or motive. I don’t believe the placement of a homeless shelter is designed to punish a neighborhood, and I also don’t accept that every new homeless person just needs a roof over their heads to suddenly become a law abiding member of the community. People with substance abuse issues do tend to engage in behaviors that cause risk and harm to other people. Nobody likes being approached by someone begging and experiencing behaviors that feel threatening. We should not have to accept crime as part of helping a person in need. That is not fair to a community either. Community goes both ways, those offering support, and those receiving it. But find a solution or everyone suffers.
Your comment is really important.
It has been strange and scary to see how on local issues, there is significant rancor/bullying etc among people who otherwise likely agree on many political issues (example: voting rights, gun control, LGBT etc)
In this instance seems to me that those who favor placement of the residence would do well to acknowledge concerns and genuinely commit to address possible problems.
Instead, “supporters” of the residence deny/attack those who disagree.
My grandmother’s mantra: “catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
Thanks. So much of the rancor appears to be defensive posturing. Cherry picking the best of the best and worst of the worst. What safety protocols need to be in place to ensure that existing and permanent residents feel safe while the new temporary residents also feel safe and get the help the experts seem to say they want. It is hard to know what they really want, but hopefully it’s something that aligns with the needs of the local community. If it doesn’t, how much is the local community expected to flex and financially support their desired lifestyle? Again, the resources are available. Take advantage. Living in Manhattan in such a resource rich neighborhood is a privilege. Do something with the opportunity.
I grew up in San Francisco. It used to be lovely. Open Hearts appears to have good intentions. But you know what they saying about good intentions and where they lead. They are on thin ice. I saw my hometown suffer. You don’t put homeless shelters or 1/2 way transitions in a neighborhood. Humane, compassionate services OUTSIDE populated areas is kinder and more considerate to EVERYONE.
Is there any concern that this safe haven housing is low barrier, meaning no background checks? Understanding that low barrier would permit housing to pedophiles and registered sex offenders? I’d be interested to know more about the safety measures planned for the community as well as the residents. I’d like to know what is the contingency plan if the safe haven low barrier shelter is anything less than successful? I reached out to CB7 but they have not responded to multiple emails.
Valid question. I would first get clarity on what success to them looks like. Maybe reach out specifically to Shelly Fine as he seems to be the champion for this shelter and should be the one held accountable.
Bentley Hotel (500 East 62nd Street) another Stuart and Jay Podolsky (via “Amsterdam Hospitality Group”), will become a homeless shelter.
At least city is spreading the pain around.
Spreading the pain around? Did you read the article? It specifically states that it’s going to be a sanctuary for families. There will be 197 Rooms for families with children.”
And? Fact city is putting any homeless shelter or sanctuary on the UES is still news.
Mind you 500 block is over by hospital row and thus rather out of the way, but still…
I’m not opposed to this facility on the UES. Before moving to the UWS I lived in that neighborhood for 30+ years.
I was questioning why you chose to say ‘spread the pain around,’ when something good is being done to help people.
People have just as might right to express worry about this project as they do support it. By reducing people with questions and concerns to being: ‘Nimbys’ and ‘Karens’ and so on, you are controlling them by shutting down the conversation. Not caring about another’s point of view is cruel and abusive so let’s watch the language from those in favor of this project just as much as those against it. Rehabilitation of the homeless is a complex issue. One can be morally and politically in support of helping the homeless while at the same time, have concerns about the ‘way’ in which their rehabilitation is rolling out. The stats about the success of these projects can’t just come from within the ‘Breaking Ground’ agency, there needs to be full transparency (in detail) about the ratio of security guards to residents, there needs to full transparency about who stands to gain from this project (Not-for-profit doesn’t mean that employees don’t get BIG salaries and kickbacks and so on…) If helping the homeless was a simple as building ‘safe havens’ we wouldn’t have a homeless problem today. So let’s work together, hey? No matter what side you are on, don’t let anyone accuse you of not caring for others if you do!
I am always so stunned how the neighborhood stake holders – renters, homeowners, business owners, workers…are always so disregarded and shoved to the side. One can actually have compassion for the homeless as well as want to live in a safe area and live in a civilized way – Why homeless groups think it is good to keep the chronically homeless (be it drugs or mental issues) in an area with easy access to drug dealers and other crime inducing situations (easy access to robbing store, people, kids, etc.) is beyond me. I would think getting those that actually need the help out of the environment would be the first thing one would do. In AA they say don’t hang around drinkers because it is too tempting.
The homeless social workers love to come into neighborhoods and disrupt the stakeholders for their personal missions – which they have for various reasons.
But it is sad and sickening to watch the stakeholders who make a neighborhood great so disregarded by so many in the quest to virtue signal.