NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Upper West Side is divided.
After months of debate, the city is moving hundreds of homeless people out of a hotel.
Tension was high at a rally in support of homeless people housed at the Lucerne Hotel on 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue after it was announced they’re being relocated again, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.
“The neighborhood, they don’t want us here. We gotta live somewhere. Wherever we go they’re going to complain about it,” Wayne Jenkins said.
Upper West Side residents have been clashing about the 300 men that the city moved into the neighborhood in July, to get them out of dorm-style shelters where they can’t socially distance.
Jenkins has been living in the Lucerne at 79th Street and Amsterdam since July, when the city turned it into a temporary shelter for 300 men. However, he said some bad apples spoiled it for everyone.
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“Quite a few, some of them just don’t follow the rules. We are asked not to do certain things and some just seem to break ’em. So they want us to move,” Jenkins said.
A group of residents complained about drug deals, violence, and public urination. They formed a nonprofit called the West Side Community Organization and hired a well-known lawyer and threatened to sue the city.
That prompted the mayor to take a closer look.
“I went and saw for myself on the Upper West Side last week,” de Blasio said. “And what I saw was not acceptable and had to be addressed, because the idea is to always try and balance the need to serve homeless folks with a need for community to continue to go about its life.”
Other community leaders say they witnessed something much different.
“I have walked this area night and day, up and down Broadway,” said City Council member Helen Rosenthal. “It was as safe as can be.”
“The mayor came in saying he was going to address the tale of two cities. He has just made a statement that this is a tale of two cities and it’s OK by him. Shame on him,” said one person demonstrating outside the hotel.
Some community members said they feel the neighborhood could have been more tolerant.
“For the people in the city, you got to understand this is a crisis,” one person said.
“These were unusual times, certainly. Extending ourselves to people in need, I think it’s OK,” added business owner William Weiner.
For now, the Department of Social Services say they are just relocating people from two hotels – the Lucerne and one in Queens, but they haven’t said where they’re going yet, citing privacy.
“If the city is going to start moving people back from hotels into settings before it is safe to do so, we will sue them,” said Joshua Goodman of Legal Aid.
The city says it is ensuring everyone will be safely distanced. As for Jenkins, he says he’ll go where he’s told.
“They say we gotta move, we gotta move. I don’t make no complaint about it,” Jenkins said.
He said he thinks he’s moving to the East 30s and hopes that neighborhood is more understanding.
WestCo – a group of Upper West Side residents who formed to push back against the housing of the homeless there – released a statement on the city’s decision, saying in part:
“This was a win-win for all involved. The goal of our organization was always to improve the conditions of not only our community, but the lack of resources these men were receiving. We are grateful to the Department of Homeless Services and Mayor de Blasio for responding to our concerns, as we are grateful that these men will now be in a more appropriate environment. The Upper West Side still has more work to do, but this is a tremendous first step,” the organization said.
Some local residents said they, too, understand.
“Personally, I’m not too worried, but I mean my mom lives in the area. She’s a little bit older. Definitely, I can see for older people, for some women, just everybody, it can be a little sketchy. I’m glad they’re trying to make an effort to clean up the situation,” UWS resident Zach Sano said.
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