NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A group of concerned neighbors won a small victory in the fight to stop a homeless shelter from opening near Billionaires Row in Midtown.
A state appeals judge is putting the plans on hold after a group of residents sued citing safety concerns.
The security equipment was ready to go and construction workers are going in. But the future shelter at the former Park Savoy hotel in the “Billionaires Row” neighborhood is not opening anytime soon, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
An appeals judge Wednesday ruled in favor of the West 58th Street Coalition, a group of neighbors.
“It’s a complete disaster,” said Les Fischer, a tenant with the West 58th Street Coalition.
The judge heard the concerns from a former FDNY captain hired by the coalition, and a former deputy commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services.
“There is only one way in and one way out,” said consultant Robert Mascali.
“There’s no fire escape, there’s no fire tower,” said fire safety expert Robert Kuper.
“You have 44 fire guys rushing up staircase to put the fire out, and then you have 150 homeless people trying to get out of the building, you’re going to have a lot of injuries,” Fischer said.
The shelter’s opening is on hold until an appeals panel hears the case in January.
The location on 58th Street near Seventh Avenue would house 150 homeless men, many who are working or are actively seeking employment.
Residents in the area who are not part of the lawsuit say even as a hotel the location was unsafe, and not a good fit anyway.
“This is a death trap,” said neighbor Carl Tate.
“[They] can’t even afford a cup of coffee, how will they live in this area,” said neighborhood resident Robin.
The city wouldn’t make anyone available to talk to CBS2 on camera, but by email both fire and building officials deem this building safe – and they stand by that statement, Rozner reported.
Homeless advocates agree.
“I have brought cases on city shelters based on fire regulations – that’s when they didn’t have sprinklers, door bolted shut that should have been open, no fire alarm system – this is just a case that shouldn’t be brought,” said Doug Lasdon, executive director of the Urban Justice Center. “Poor people have to take housing where they can get it.’
Despite the temporary injunction, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services says the city will open the site as soon as possible.
The city’s Law Department says it is confident once an appeals panel reviews the claims in January, the city will prevail.