New York, NY—A newly formed group, Downtown New Yorkers, today announced a lawsuit against the city to stop it from transferring around 300 homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to the former Radisson Hotel at 52 William in the Financial District.
The New York Post reported last week that the group has hired the high-profile international law firm Cozen O’Connor, and is aiming to raise $1 million for a legal battle.
The lawsuit makes a number of assertions. For starters, it asserts that the proposed move to 52 William Street is motivated by political expediency rather than by public health policy.
It further states that the City has no legal authority to move the men as its contract with the Hotel Association of New York City, through which it has been placing homeless individuals in hotels, has expired.
And the suit notes that the transfers to the Radisson will cause irreparable harm because it will create a new public health and safety emergency in the Financial District.
“The residents of Lower Manhattan fully support these homeless individuals, and we recognize the homeless crisis facing our city,” said Christopher Brown, co-founder of Downtown New Yorkers.
“However, the City has reacted recklessly and erratically by repeatedly uprooting these individuals based on political pressure. Even the social service provider believes that the homeless men are better served by remaining on the Upper West Side, where they have access to extensive social programs—including a successful jobs program—that are not available in Lower Manhattan.”
In contrast to the Downtown New Yorkers position, the Friends of FiDi NYC, a private Group launched on Facebook in September, is more open to the possible transfers.
In the “About” section of the Group, they strongly urge the Mayor to reconsider the decision to transfer the residents of the Lucerne to the Radisson as it will retraumatize the residents. However, if the transfer does move forward, the Group will welcome the residents who shelter at the Radisson Hotel into the fabric of the community.
This latest action represents another chapter in the ongoing saga of where to permanently locate the homeless men from the Lucerne, which have been caught up in a tug-of-war between different neighborhoods.
A group formed on the Upper West Side, “Upper West Siders for Safer Streets,” to demand that the city relocate the homeless men because they claimed there were quality-of-life concerns. They were aided in their demand by the legal representation of Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration.
As a result, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered that the men be relocated to the Harmonia Shelter on East 31st Street, which in its turn caused a major outcry among homeless advocates, social justice groups and elected officials, who led a major press conference on September 11 to call on the Mayor to reverse his decision.
The city and the Department of Homeless Services abruptly dropped that plan as it was facing a possible lawsuit from the Legal Aid Society.