Homeless residents of UWS hotel lose court battle to stay

City said the men could stay until a larger move into group shelters

The Lucerne Hotel at 201 West 79th Street (Google Maps)
The Lucerne Hotel at 201 West 79th Street (Google Maps)

After a near-year’s battle waged by neighborhood organizations, a group of homeless men will no longer be able to stay at the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side.

The city placed the men there temporarily during the pandemic, but an appellate court ruled Thursday that the men would have to leave, the New York Times reported.

The decision, at this point, is nearly moot.

As New York reopens, the city has hatched plans to move 9,000 homeless people out of the hotels used to stem the spread of Covid and back into group shelters. The city said residents of the Upper West Side’s Lucerne Hotel could stay until that transition.

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The men’s initial move last summer and a subsequent plan by the city to relocate the group to a hotel downtown sparked outrage and a slew of litigation from community groups on the West Side and Downtown, and as well as the Lucerne’s residents.

The West Side Community Organization initially sounded the alarm, claiming the homeless men had become a menace to their neighborhood. The city, then, opted to move the residents to a Radisson in the Financial District, to the outrage of residents in that neighborhood. Downtown New Yorkers, Inc. emerged, soon after, filing a suit to stop the move.

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A November decision ruled in favor of the city and denied the shelter resident’s petition to stay. The downtown-resident group appealed and in January, an appellate court allowed the homeless residents to choose where they wanted to live — the Upper West Side or FiDi — as the suit wore on.

Thursday’s decision by the New York state appeals court ruled that the attempt to block the city from relocating residents was moot because the three residents party to the case had moved out of the shelter, the New York Times reported. Of the 300 residents originally housed by the Lucerne, only 68 remain. Many have moved into permanent housing.

An attorney representing the homeless men, Michael Hiller, said as a result of the ruling 50 present and former Lucerne residents will lose their jobs with neighborhood cleanup organization the West Side Greenskeepers. He said their work is grant funded on the condition that the Lucerne be used to house homeless people.

Hiller did not disclose whether his clients would appeal the decision.

The city welcomed the ruling.

“We appreciate the courts affirming our decision-making and strategic planning, especially with regards to shelter capacity and protecting the health and safety of the New Yorkers we serve during this emergency period,” the Department of Homeless Services said in a statement.

[NYT] — Suzannah Cavanaugh