Monday marked the beginning of moving day in New York City as thousands of homeless people started to be taken from hotels in Midtown Manhattan to shelters across the city.
The Lucerne Hotel, itself the site of a public battle between the Upper West Side and the homeless people calling the hotel home during the pandemic, was one of the first hotels to be cleared out after the state of emergency in New York expired.
Some 230 homeless being sheltered at the Lucerne Hotel at the height of the pandemic, among the 13,000 people put into around 60 hotels by the city when they were empty due to the pandemic.
Only 68 were left at the Lucerne when they were forced to leave on Monday, taken to shelters across the city.
So far, three hotels have seen people removed – the Lucerne on Monday and The Blakely and Kixby Hotel on Tuesday – with at least five more to go this week.
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Homeless men and women began to be removed from the Kixby Hotel on Tuesday, the third hotel with homeless evictions
A person is seen on the street with all of their things after being removed from the Kixby Hotel
Sam, 44, a homeless US veteran doesn’t know what he’s going to do next. He suffers from PTSD
Staff members were seen helping load things into a bus to be moved to an unconfirmed shelter
‘There’s no other choice,’ Daniel Freeman told CBS New York about the move. ‘What else am I going to do? I wish they would leave us right here just until my housing comes through.’
Joe Humphrey said, ‘It’s like we’re going backwards after we got ahead.’
One resident, Janet Pytlik, seemed sad to see the men going, saying ‘I just hope that they’re doing the right thing and giving them a better start. I have no problem with them being here in the first place.’
Isaac McGinn, who works in press relations with the Department of Homeless Services in NYC, released a statement to DailyMail.com.
‘This relocation strategy worked, flattening the curve last year, stopping the spread of COVID-19, keeping rates low since then, and saving lives,’ the statement read.
‘Now that health indicators are headed in the right direction and State OTDA has issued new statewide guidance on congregate shelter operations, we are phasing out this temporary program and returning to shelter, as we have said we would throughout the pandemic.
People were being loaded onto yellow school bus with no air conditioning from The Blakely Hotel near Times Square on Tuesday
The Lucerne Hotel was one of the more controversial locations hosting homeless people
‘Because this process involves moving thousands of individuals, it will take some time and won’t be done overnight, but working in close partnership with communities and provider partners we anticipate completing this process by approximately the end of July.’
In total, around 9,000 homeless people are being moved from hotels to commercial shelters in the coming weeks.
In those shelters, multiple people will likely have to sleep in the same room, a concern with the amount of homeless people vaccinated in the city not known.
The department did not elaborate on the destination of the homeless New Yorkers and how many are expected to be moved per week, though it averages out to around 1,800 per week.
The City reports that eight hotels this week will lose 1,500 residents, including OYO Times Square, Hotel Times Square, the Comfort Inn on West 44th St., the Four Points on West 40th St., the Kixby Hotel and The Bentley on East 62nd St.
Movers were packing belongings into trucks as the removals took place Tuesday
People were being loaded on to school buses that reportedly lacked proper air conditioning
It’s not clear where the buses were headed, though one resident cited the Schwartz Assessment Facility, which is located on Randall’s Island
As the pandemic has waned, there has been a push to start reopening hotels, both across the city and across the country, which had similar hotel stays for homeless people.
The fate of the Lucerne Hotel going forward is not immediately clear. Calls to the hotel were not returned.
A notice on the hotel’s website reads, ‘We are currently closed at this time. Please continue to check back for updates about our reopening date.’
On Tuesday, The Blakely became the latest hotel to be cleared out of their homeless population.
DailyMail.com’s exclusive photos show residents of the hotel being taken on to yellow school buses, which lacked air conditioning.
Homeless men and women are set to leave the Kixby Hotel on 35th Street
‘Right now we’re being moved to the Schwartz,’ George Yepez told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
Yepez pointed to a yellow bus that the homeless residents are being moved to, pointing out the lack of AC.
‘There’s a bunch of dudes in there that are sickly, They have medical conditions,’ Yepez continued, noting the extreme heat inside the bus.
‘This is what everybody in the city is going through,’ Yepez said. ‘They pack us up, send us to Randall’s Island, now they’re gonna have us sitting in a waiting room for hours, waiting for a bed.
‘This is what the city of New York is doing.’
Yepez said that the staff were not forceful with him when it came to taking him out of his room on Tuesday, but said they could be forceful with other individuals.
‘It made you feel like you’re not wanted,’ Yepez said of the removal. ‘[Like] you’re a nobody.’
Pictured: The Lucerne Hotel, which saw 68 people removed on Monday
People were seen leaving the Kixby Hotel with all of their possessions with them after being removed
Schwartz Assessment Facility, which is run by Volunteers of America, did not return calls from DailyMail.com for comment.
On Tuesday, homeless people were also removed from the Kixby Hotel, located just a couple of blocks from Herald Square in Midtown Manhattan.
People were seen outside of the hotel with all of their possessions, with some having their things loaded on to a bus.
The next destination for many leaving the hotel will be a shelter, though some are refusing the move and instead will be living on the streets for the time being.
The Kixby Hotel marks the third hotel where homeless people were seen being removed from this week
The move to vacate the hotels comes as de Blasio’s administration faces mounting pressure to curtail an alarming surge in crime in the section of Manhattan that the NYPD has linked to the high number of homeless people being housed there by the city.
The police precinct that includes Times Square and many of the hotel homeless shelters has seen a 183 percent spike in felony assaults and 173 percent spike in robberies so far this year compared to 2020, according to NYPD data.
For months residents living near the hotels have implored the city to relocate the homeless people who they blame for bringing crime and drug use right outside their front doors.
Previous photos taken by DailyMail.com show the grim realities of homelessness in Manhattan, with many people lying on the ground without shoes, wearing worn and ragged clothing, using drugs and drinking alcohol, or passed out on the sidewalk.
On May 18, the city Department of Social Services asked the State of New York to authorize ‘the return of folks in temporary hotel locations to permanent shelter locations,’ de Blasio said.
‘It’s time to get that clear sign-off from the state, so we can move forward. Once we get that sign-off, we can start immediately moving people to shelters and getting back to that work of moving them forward in their lives,’ de Blasio said recently.
‘This is something that is going to help us move forward,’ he added.
However a spokesman for Cuomo refuted de Blasio’s characterization, saying that the governor did not have an issue with the plan so long as all the shelter residents wear masks, even if they are vaccinated.
Many of the relocated homeless people have blended into the area, but others who struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse have become a growing presence near people’s homes and in high-trafficked tourist destinations.
Crime in the area – heavily concentrated on Eighth Avenue between Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square – has soared this year, according to the NYPD.
NYPD crime data shows there have been 174 assaults, 150 robberies and four shootings that left two tourists injured in that area between January and May.
Residents are seen being removed from The Blakely and loaded on to buses on Tuesday
Police set up a command post and metal barriers in Midtown Manhattan to crack down on violent crime that’s being fueled, in part, by an illegal drug market between Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
The city has spent $300million on the hotel program since last April, when officials first negotiated a contract with the Hotel Association of New York City to find and provide rooms in hotels across the city, according to the New York Post.
The initial contract was for $78million, the Post reported, but that only covered a fraction of the rooms and hotels that the city needed. By October, records from the city comptroller showed, the city had spent $299million on the program.
In August, de Blasio had said the city was beginning to wind down its use of hotels as temporary shelters, as positivity rates declined before going back up again after the holiday season.
Then in September, the mayor called conditions in the area surrounding the Lucerne Hotel ‘not acceptable’ after a 60-year-old man was found dead inside the hotel. A source told the Post at the time that his death was not suspicious and appeared to be linked to natural causes.
But it came amid growing complaints from the wealthy Upper West Side community, who argued that the city officials did not get community input before moving the homeless residents into nearby hotels, including the Lucerne, which the Post reports, became home to many addicted to drugs.
The residents argued that the new tenants harmed their quality of life by accosting pedestrians; claimed they saw some of the men at the hotel use drugs and overdose on sidewalks; and that they were responsible for a rise in robberies and burglaries – even though police statistics showed crime remained down in the area.
They formed a group, called the West Side Community Organization, after the homeless were quietly brought to the hotel, and claimed they saw fight, drug use and people spitting – despite the pandemic.
The New York Post at the time also reported that many of the new tenants were sex offenders.
In total, around 9,000 homeless people are being moved from hotels to around 60 commercial shelters in the coming weeks
The group urged city officials to relocate the homeless individuals, prompting the mayor to begin moving the homeless to the Harmonia in Midtown.
But it soon emerged that the men who were being brought there were displacing disabled residents at the Harmonia, and advocates for the homeless reacted with fury, marching from Carl Schurz Park to Gracie Mansion and demanding that de Blasio resign.
The Department of Homeless Services only paused the relocation in mid-September, though, after the Legal Aid filed a lawsuit on their behalf.
Roughly one week later, the city announced it would move the residents from the Lucerne to a Radisson hotel in the Financial District, prompting residents there to create a Facebook page entitled ‘Downtown NYCers for Safe Streets.’
‘We believe that our residents should have been notified in advance of this possibility and now that it has been agreed to without our knowledge, we need to make our voices heard,’ the page’s description read.
The NYPD have now set up a command post and metal barriers in Midtown Manhattan in a bid to crack down on violent crime that is being fueled, in part, by an illegal drug market between Penn Station and Port Authority Bus Terminal. Police say crime has spiked in that area after hundreds of homeless were rehoused there in hotels during COVID
A post on the page provided residents with a template to raise their concerns to city officials, and one of the posts on the page reads: ‘I have great compassion for the homeless, but moving them in a few blocks from my son where drug use was clear is not appropriate.
‘These human beings deserve help, not a hotel room with no medical and no counseling,’ the mother continued. ‘And residents deserve to raise their kids without fear of witnessing drug use and homeless individuals who are ill screaming day and night yelling obscenities on every corner.’
‘They are ill, they need help – not a hotel.’
By November, homeless individuals claimed Upper West Side residents were offering them food or money to move out, and by the end of the month, a judge had ruled that the homeless must be moved out of the Lucerne hotel and into the Radisson.
The announcement that the ‘Homeless-to-Hotels’ program, though, came with mixed reaction.
Some homeless residents said the private hotel room provided a vastly better living experience than sleeping in a shelter, the Times reported, and others said they would rather live in the street than go back to living in a shelter.
Advocates have also argued that the decision is premature, as the Federal Emergency Management Association has offered to pay for the hotels until the end of September, and many of the homeless may not be vaccinated.
The city has said that about 6,300 homeless adults had been fully vaccinated through its Homeless Services sites, but officials did not know how many had been vaccinated elsewhere.
More than 17,000 adults are in the shelter program, the Times reported.