A New York State Appellate Court has ruled that the city can move homeless men out of a hotel on the Upper West Side, likely bringing a months-long battle to an end.
Last summer, around 200 homeless men were moved to the Lucerne Hotel in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in congregate shelters. Soon after their arrival, some Upper West Siders raised objections over loitering, public urination, panhandling, and similar issues for which they blamed the homeless men, though it was never determined who was responsible.
After they formed a neighborhood group and threatened to sue, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided the men would be relocated to another hotel on Wall Street. He argued they would be closer to medical and other services they needed there. But there, a group called Downtown New Yorkers, Inc. organized to oppose the move and sued the city.
A legal battle ensued, with some men from the Lucerne intervening in the case to protest the move as well. The court dismissed their appeal as moot on Thursday, because they were moved into permanent housing in the interim, clearing the way for the city to move out of the Lucerne entirely.
A spokesman for the Department of Social Services, Isaac McGinn, said though that the city wouldn’t relocate the men right away. That’s because they’re developing an overall plan to move some of around 10,000 homeless New Yorkers who were placed into hotels during the pandemic back into congregate shelters.
“The Lucerne will be phased out as part of that return-to-shelter plan and these individuals will be included in that plan, rather than relocating twice in a short time period,” McGinn said.
There are currently 70 men remaining at the Lucerne, with most having moved into permanent housing.
A former Lucerne resident, who goes by the nickname Shams and was part of the lawsuit, said in a statement that the legal proceedings were still a win because the men never had to move to the Radisson Hotel on Wall Street.
“We have changed the game forever on the issue of homelessness in NYC,” he said. “We now have a seat at the table, a voice in the discussion and a hand in the decision making.”
The Upper West Side group that fought to have the men moved out of the neighborhood welcomed the decision.
“We are gratified by today’s decision putting an end to this sad litigation saga,” said Randy Mastro, the group’s legal counsel.