NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A new report says the city is footing the bill to put up homeless patrons in pricey Manhattan hotels – with some costing $629 per night.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the MAve Hotel, at 62 Madison Ave. in the Flatiron District, advertised itself as New York’s “freshest and most fashionable boutique” hotel. Now, it is home to 74 homeless families – in a trend that has seen the city’s reliance on private hotels to house the homeless skyrocket.
A report issued Wednesday by Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city booked 30 rooms at the hotel on Sept. 19 and Sept. 20.
“Over the course of 12 months, the Department of Homeless Services did 5,000 hotel bookings at a cost of $29 million to taxpayers,” Stringer told 1010 WINS. “Some of these rooms cost up to $629 a night. Renting a room at the Waldorf-Astoria costs less.”
Stringer added, “Commercial hotels are by far the most expensive, inefficient ways to house our homeless population.”
The report says that over a year, there were 815 bookings at two midtown Manhattan hotels for $400 a night or more.
The city now spends $400,000 a night to house the homeless, up from $52,000 a night a year ago.
“The number of New Yorkers placed in commercial hotels skyrocketed by 740 percent,” Stringer said.
The report added that the average daily rate paid by the city is around $194. It said the Department of Homeless Services spent $72.9 million on 425,000 hotel room bookings between Nov. 1, 2015 and Oct. 31, 2016.
The city said the MAve, with posh rooms that start at $599 per night, is charging the city $199. That is a tab of nearly $15,000 per night – and $5.4 million a year – the MAve alone.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to put children in commercial hotels with no social services,” Stringer said.
The mayor’s office says Manhattan hotel costs rose on those days because of United Nations meetings.
Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, admitted that hotels are “not ideal” for housing for the homeless.
“But until we get citywide acceptance that more shelters are needed, hotels remain the only short-term option for keeping many New Yorkers off the streets,” Worthy-Davis said in the statement.
Worthy-Davis also said there’s a need for “citywide acceptance” of efforts to expand shelter space.
Stringer, often listed as a potential 2017 mayoral candidate, said the time has come for “bold action.” He said the city was “trending in the wrong direction,” when it came to easing away from reliance on hotel and cluster housing.
His suggestions include repairing now-vacant New York City Housing Authority public housing apartments to house the homeless, getting more landlords to accept voucher payments, and developing a land bank of city properties to build affordable housing.
Late Wednesday, NYCHA admitted it has 1,200 so-called off-roll units that are not in use because they are undergoing significant repairs for problems such as leaks, asbestos removal and pipe replacement. Stringer said the problems should be fixed at once so the homeless can live in the units.
“We’re talking about little kids who are spending the night in commercial hotels with no services and no hope, and yet, there are things the city can do today; tomorrow; next week,” Stringer said.
Robert Mascali, the former director of homeless operations for mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, has another idea.
“They need to bring in some different people with different ideas,” he said. “They should call a summit of all the shelter providers and advocates and clients.”
The number of homeless people in the city has gone up in the past year. In a study released in July 2016, the Coalition for the Homeless said there were 60,067 homeless people in the city in May of this year, compared with 58,906 in May 2015.
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