Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted the conditions around a soon-to-close Upper West Side hotel shelter for the Big Apple’s homeless as “not acceptable” as authorities Wednesday morning discovered a man they believe to be a resident dead inside.
“I went and saw for myself on the Upper West Side last week and what I saw was not acceptable and had to be addressed,” Hizzoner told reporters during a virtual press conference at City Hall.
“The idea is to always try and balance the need to serve homeless folks with the need of the community to continue to go about its life.”
De Blasio’s remarks came as officials discovered a man who died inside of the controversial facility at the Lucerne Hotel, but could not provide additional details. Police sources told The Post they believed the man was a homeless resident there, but identification was still pending.
The discovery and de Blasio’s remarks came just hours after City Hall quietly acknowledged it planned to remove the nearly 300 homeless New Yorkers from the hotel on West 79th St., near Amsterdam Ave., and move them to other facilities in the city’s sprawling shelter network.
Many Upper West Side residents complained loudly for weeks that city officials failed to properly consult them before converting three hotels in the neighborhood — including the Lucerne — into emergency shelter space during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Much of their ire focused on the Lucerne, which became home to nearly 300 men, many of whom are addicts struggling to recover.
The locals argued that the new residents harmed the quality of life in the neighborhood by accosting pedestrians; claimed they saw the men use drugs and overdose on sidewalks; and that they were responsible for a jump in robberies and burglaries — though police statistics show violent crime remained down.
However, other neighbors and social service organized and fired back, charging that the critics were motivated by fear and betrayed the famously liberal neighborhood’s values.
The Department of Homeless Services began moving the homeless into hotels in a desperate bid to staunch the spread of COVID-19 among New York’s least fortunate, who typically stay in cramped congregate shelters where social distancing is nearly impossible.
Officials inked a $78 million contract with the Hotel Association of New York City to find and provide rooms in hotels across the city to house roughly 10,000 people — in addition to the 3,500 who were already in hotel shelters.
De Blasio said in August his administration was beginning to eye ways to wind down the program as criticism mounted and the coronavirus outbreak remained contained.
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