Shelters Closing - and Opening - on the West Side

The city starts phasing out the use of commercial hotels as homeless shelters, but converts another to housing for working individuals

| 07 Jun 2021 | 08:33

A controversial Upper West Side shelter and one that has been there for nearly two decades are leaving the community. While another that has caused a stir is coming to Billionaire’s Row on West 58th Street.

The yearlong battle to get rid of the shelter at the Lucerne Hotel has finally ended. After protests, rallies and legal proceedings, an appellate court ruled June 3 that the men at the hotel must vacate the premises.

During the pandemic, the NYC Department of Homeless Services utilized a total of more than 130 commercial hotel locations as shelter citywide, including 67 locations, such as the Lucerne, to combat COVID-19, where 10,000 individuals from congregate shelters were relocated due to the pandemic. Now those places are being phased out and people are being found housing or returned to shelters.

“We appreciate the courts affirming our decision-making and strategic planning, especially with regards to shelter capacity and protecting health and safety of the New Yorkers we serve during this emergency period,” said a DHS spokesman. “We continue to believe that the individuals residing at this location will be best served in the longer term by residing closer to the services they may rely on, like medical care.”

In January, the court ruled the Lucerne must remain a shelter, but it seems the judges have changed their tune. Many of the former residents testified that it was wrong they were being forced to move, while others said the conditions at the Lucerne were horrid.

The Lucerne was turned into a shelter in July 2020 for 280 men with substance abuse or mental health issues, due to the pandemic. The move divided the community, with some arguing that the decision resulted in drug trafficking, urination and defecation in the streets as well as a decline in the quality of the neighborhood, and others rallying to provide support and resources for the men at the Lucerne.

While the de Blasio Administration agreed in September 2020 to discontinue the use of the Lucerne as a shelter, the courts kept it open until now.

Ellington Shelter

After nearly two decades, it was announced last week that the Ellington shelter on West 111th Street would shutter its doors. The former hotel was converted into a shelter into 2002 for 40 families with children.

In an effort to reduce the use of commercial hotels as shelters, the city is ending the use of the Ellington as a shelter and will be phasing out the site over the coming weeks.

Families were notified last week and have already begun moving out.

“As part of this course-of-business process, we will work directly and closely with each of the families currently residing at the site on next steps, helping families who are already connected to permanent housing move into that housing this month, and providing alternative shelter placements to the families who have not yet identified permanent housing that meets their needs or are not yet ready to move, including shelter placements closer to their children’s school where possible,” a DHS spokesman said.

Billionaire’s Row

For three years residents fought back against a planned shelter for 150 men at Billionaire’s Row, but now it looks like it is finally happening.

In May, the courts ruled that the former Park Savoy Hotel at 158 West 58th Street was fit to be converted to a shelter. As this is one block from Billionaire’s Row, many people in the community do not want it.

“We appreciate the courts affirming the city’s determination to provide New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with shelter at this site and look forward to opening our doors at this location as soon as possible,” said a DHS spokesman. “We’re confident that working together with our vital not-for-profit social service provider partners and neighbors, through support and compassion, our clients will be warmly welcomed as they get back on their feet here and we will make this the best experience it can be for all during these challenging times.”

The spokesman said the city and nonprofit service provider partner Westhab are aiming to open the shelter as soon as possible.

This will be an employment shelter, as the facility will be focused on supporting and working with individuals who are employed or who are actively seeking employment. The program will provides on-site services such as job readiness training and job search assistance, with access to dedicated employment case managers and job developers focused on helping clients find and retain employment, while building income and achieving independence.