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New York City halts transfer of 235 homeless people from Lucerne Hotel after last-ditch legal effort

New York City officials have stopped the transfer of homeless people from the Upper West Side’s The Lucerne hotel at the last minute, after legal efforts from three men who have been living there amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ramone Buford, Larry Thomas and Travis Trammell were some of 235 people set to be moved to the shuttered Radisson hotel in Lower Manhattan on Monday from 10.30am after Upper West Side neighbors claimed they had brought rampant drug use and lewd displays to the neighborhood.

However plans won’t go ahead for now as they asked a court to intervene, saying that the move to another area where residents have strongly opposed their presence would cause ‘massive psychological damage’ and ‘irreparable harm’.

The City temporarily halted plans but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary Bill Neidhardt told the New York Post: ‘We will meet the lawyers in court and we plan to prevail. 

Hundreds of homeless people were set to be moved from the Upper West Side’s The Lucerne hotel starting Monday morning

Lucerne resident Larry Thomas speaks as a protest is held outside of the Lucerne Hotel in the Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, as homeless residents fight to stay at the hotel rather than being transferred to a hotel in the Financial District

Lucerne resident Larry Thomas speaks as a protest is held outside of the Lucerne Hotel in the Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, as homeless residents fight to stay at the hotel rather than being transferred to a hotel in the Financial District

However people living near the Financial District's Radisson hotel opposed the move last week

However people living near the Financial District’s Radisson hotel opposed the move last week

‘In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to best support all New Yorkers currently experiencing homelessness.’

Upper West Siders living near the West 79th Street makeshift shelter have threatened legal action against the City, claiming the presence of the displaced people brought quality of life issues and that the homeless men had accosted others.

Last week, residents and businesses forming Downtown New Yorkers Inc. filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme to prevent the transfer claiming the City was ‘exploiting the current humanitarian crisis to cover up its own mismanagement’ of 13,000 homeless people in the pandemic.

Critics formed a Facebook group called ‘Downtown NYCers for Safe Streets’ shortly after the officials announced the plan to convert the Radisson on William Street into the tourist area’s first-ever traditional shelter.

They claim they were blindsided by the move and argued their children would be exposed to drug use and noise throughout the night.

It’s unclear what the long-term solution is or what neighborhood wouldn’t result in the same complaints. 

Some residents showed solidarity with the displaced people on Monday amid the pandemic

Some residents showed solidarity with the displaced people on Monday amid the pandemic 

'The Homeless Hero' spoke at a protest and media conference outside the hotel on Monday

‘The Homeless Hero’ spoke at a protest and media conference outside the hotel on Monday

People stood in support of the displaced people who are sheltering in the affluent area

People stood in support of the displaced people who are sheltering in the affluent area

New York State Senator Brian A. Benjamin speaks as a protest is held outside of The Lucerne

New York State Senator Brian A. Benjamin speaks as a protest is held outside of The Lucerne

Some residents staged protests and argued that the homeless people needed help not a hotel room whereas others argued that New Yorkers should be allowed to shelter anywhere, not just where permanently sheltered people dictated.

‘We know that we are not welcomed in the Financial District,’ 51-year-old father Buford said in Sunday’s affidavit.

The former musician added that despite the complaints from permanently sheltered residents on the Upper West Side, most people in the area had been friendly to them. 

However they didn’t expect the same level of respect in the Financial District which could trigger behavior that would prevent them from getting back on their feet again.

‘One of the traumas of being homeless is being un-welcomed. People avoid us on the street, make faces at us on the subways, and try not to make eye contact…’ Buford continued.

‘The refusal to engage us contributes to alcohol dependency, substance abuse and mental illness in the homeless population.

Lucerne resident Mark watches as a protest and press conference is held outside his shelter

Lucerne resident Mark watches as a protest and press conference is held outside his shelter

A Lucerne resident is interviewed as a protest and press conference is held outside the hotel

A Lucerne resident is interviewed as a protest and press conference is held outside the hotel

‘Subjecting us to a community that detests us enough to institute litigation to keep us away would threaten to take us backwards and resign us to years, if not decades, of decline.’

The filing also mentions that during their stay at The Lucerne many of the men have managed to obtain jobs that they would lose if forced to move to another neighborhood.

Living at The Lucerne had also provided access to treatment programs but what’s offered at the Radisson is ‘neither comparable nor, in many cases, even existent’.

It echoed sentiments expressed in a filing from the FiDi residents.

‘If I were forced to relocate… I would likely refuse, and instead return to the streets,’ Burford admits in the affidavit.

‘We are confident that the court’s decision not to interfere with the judgment of the city to move forward will stand,’ a spokesperson for the City’s law department told the New York Post. 

‘Residents will continue to get on site services and be closer to the medical care they need.’

Ramone Buford, Larry Thomas and Travis Trammell filed legal action against NYC saying it would cause 'massive psychological damage' and 'irreparable harm' to them and the other homeless men. The City temporarily halted plans but Mayor Bill de Blasio's press secretary Bill Neidhardt said: 'We will meet the lawyers in court and we plan to prevail'

Ramone Buford, Larry Thomas and Travis Trammell filed legal action against NYC saying it would cause ‘massive psychological damage’ and ‘irreparable harm’ to them and the other homeless men. The City temporarily halted plans but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary Bill Neidhardt said: ‘We will meet the lawyers in court and we plan to prevail’

The City made plans to move them after people living near The Lucerne hotel complained of rampant drug use and lewd displays from the shelter residents. Pictured October 4

The City made plans to move them after people living near The Lucerne hotel complained of rampant drug use and lewd displays from the shelter residents. Pictured October 4

The Upper West Side emerged as a flashpoint of the debate over NYC's homeless initiative as some members of the largely affluent community complained that drug use and lewd displays had become a common sights on their streets  (file image taken September 3)

The Upper West Side emerged as a flashpoint of the debate over NYC’s homeless initiative as some members of the largely affluent community complained that drug use and lewd displays had become a common sights on their streets  (file image taken September 3)


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