Residents of New York City’s Upper West Side are threatening to sue the city after thousands of homeless people were placed in luxury hotels in the neighborhood due to the coronavirus crisis.
At the moment more than 13,000 homeless people are being housed in 139 hotels across the Big Apple, including three luxury hotels – The Belleclaire, The Lucerne and The Belnord – on the Upper West Side.
But residents of the upscale neighborhood complain that the move-in of the vagrants has brought with it increased crime, random violence, drugs, public urination and open prostitution.
Some locals claim sex offenders have also moved into the streets.
Residents have hired an attorney to sue the city to transfer the homeless back into shelters where they can get help.
On Monday a Zoom meeting was held between the community board, residents and homeless advocates about keeping the streets safe. About 1,100 people joined that emergency meeting.
‘What the city has to do legally is house this vulnerable population in proper shelters, where they will get support and supervision and social services they will need,’ attorney Randy Mastro, who represents the West Side Community Organization, said to ABC7.
Mastro is an attorney and former Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff under Rudy Giuliani.
It’s not clear when the suit against the city and Mayor Bill De Blasio would be filed by Mastro said it would be ‘soon’, according to Our Town.
‘We are calling on the de Blasio administration to clear up this mess of its own making,’ Mastro said to the New York Post.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the West Side Community Organization for comment on the lawsuit.
‘Last night the community came together at the CB7 board meeting to address significant safety concerns to our children and neighborhood. We will not turn a blind eye to what is happening to the UWS or ignore the risk of sexual assault. More news in the coming week,’ the group tweeted Tuesday evening.
Local Michelle Benvenisti said she was walking home on the Upper West Side last Saturday night when someone started heckling her. She claimed the man tried to follow her into her home then loitered outside for several hours.
‘Completely unnerving that I have purchased a sound alarm for keychain, and I’m signing up for self-defense. Changing the way I do every day activities,’ Benvenisti said.
Upper West Side resident Alison Morpurgo said a homeless man grabbed her a few weeks ago trying to steal her phone.
‘When they’re not wearing masks, congregating, sleeping on the street or sharing bottles, it’s hard to see how that’s helpful. What was the goal of that?’ Morpurgo said.
Locals have joined social media groups including the Twitter page ‘Save the Upper West Side’ and Facebook group ‘Upper West Siders for Safer Streets’, which boasts over 11,000 followers.
On both pages users post stark photos of the homeless population they’ve found sleeping in streets and urinating in public, and share their concerns.
Still, the city stands by the decision to move homeless New Yorkers to 139 struggling private hotels across the city in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and prevent breakouts at shelters.
The effort is being mostly paid for by FEMA, but 25 percent of it is coming from the city’s shrinking budget. It brings some cash to the struggling hotels which were decimated by the pandemic.
Through the program, they take $175 per person, per night which – with more than 13,000 homeless currently being housed in hotels – is more than $2.275million, according to anonymous city sources who have been quoted since May.
Despite the complaints and the exorbitant bills, the city is standing by the decision.
‘We know that by moving into hotels, we were able to save lives,’ Erin Drinkwater from the Department of Social Services said.
‘New Yorkers experiencing homelessness are our neighbors – and the notion that they are not welcome in some neighborhoods for any reason is an affront to basic decency,’ The Department of Homeless Services said in a statement.
In early August Mayor Bill De Blasio said moving the homeless wasn’t a permanent plan and the city is planning to purchase buildings to urn them into affordable housing.
‘We’re now starting the process of reducing the reliance on hotels,’ de Blasio said at a press conference. ‘That’s the big plan is make sure we can start to get people out of those hotels, relieve some of the pressure on those communities.’
De Blasio offered no details on how quickly the program would be wound down. He had recently said that the program would continue for ‘six months-ish.’