Judge Declines to Prevent Move of Homeless Men to 52 William
State Supreme Court Justice Debra James on Friday rebuffed a legal motion by Downtown New Yorkers, Inc.—which organized in recent weeks to mobilize against a plan by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to relocate more than 200 homeless men to a vacant hotel in the Financial District—to halt the transfer, pending further litigation.
The suit was filed on Wednesday, by attorney Ken Fisher (representing Downtown New Yorkers, Inc.) alleging that the City lacked proper legal authority to house homeless men at the Radisson New York Wall Street (located at 52 William Street). The suit argued that the City was using the public-health crisis associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to evade legal requirements for community notice and consultation. Specifically, the filings alleged that while the de Blasio Administration is using emergency rules enacted for contracts related to COVID-19, the planned move to 52 William Street has no actual connection to the pandemic. The suit additionally contended the City has no lawful authority to move the men, because its contract with the Hotel Association of New York City, through which it has been placing homeless individuals in hotels, has expired.
In her decision, Justice James agreed to consider these issues, and set a November 16 date for opening arguments. But she refused to grant the temporary restraining order that Downtown New Yorkers, Inc. and Mr. Fisher sought, which would have prevented the move from happening before then. This ruling has the effect of clearing the way for the City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to begin moving men into the facility today (Monday, October 19). Justice James noted, however, that if she eventually rules in favor of Downtown New Yorkers, Inc., potential remedies might include ordering the eviction from the Radisson New York Wall Street of the homeless men who will be transferred there this week.
Sheltering homeless persons at 52 William Street is actually not a new development. The DHS has used the building since March as a temporary facility, aiming to limit the spread of the pandemic coronavirus among residents of the shelter system. But DHS now plans to convert the facility into a longer-term shelter, for clients who are slated to be transferred from Lucerne Hotel, on the Upper West Side, after residents in that community organized, raised funds, and hired lawyers to stop the agency from housing approximately 240 homeless men there. After City officials agreed to vacate the Lucerne, they settled on the Radisson New York Wall Street as a replacement facility.
This unleashed a chorus of condemnation from elected officials and Downtown community leaders, who have made a point of noting that they are not opposed in principle to homeless shelters in Lower Manhattan, but have instead decried the de Blasio administration’s apparent attempt to accomplish the move by stealth — notifying residents and their representatives late on a Friday evening, before a three-day weekend, and just days before the transfer was slated to begin. (The date has since been pushed back to the week of October 19.)
“The residents of Lower Manhattan fully support these homeless individuals and we recognize the homeless crisis facing our city,” Christopher Brown of Downtown New Yorkers said on Wednesday, as the lawsuit was filed. “However, the City has reacted recklessly and erratically by repeatedly uprooting these individuals, based on political pressure.” He adds that even the non-profit hired by the City to manage the facility, “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.”
Patrick Kennell, president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association
After Justice James’s decision was announced on Friday, he responded that, “the City has repeatedly moved these men from shelter to shelter, disrupting their lives without any plan.” He added, “it would be unconscionable for the City to move the men into 52 William Street, knowing that they might be forced to move again in several weeks. The neighborhood is committed to its ongoing legal strategy on this matter.”
A spokesman for the City’s Law Department responded by saying, “the entire City has a moral and legal obligation to provide safe shelter to all who need it. This shameful attempt to dodge that obligation through a technical procurement challenge will fail in court. Using this hotel to provide shelter during this unprecedented pandemic is not only a justified use of the Mayor’s emergency powers, it is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Patrick Kennell, president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association, reflects that, “it never should have come to this — a lawsuit.” He adds that, “Mayor de Blasio and his administration had plenty of opportunity to inform and engage the 235 men at the Lucerne and the FiDi community about the Mayor’s reported ‘review’ and political ‘decision’ to yet again uproot these men, who are heading for their fourth move in six months. Rather than use that ‘review’ time to work with all those affected, Mayor de Blasio chose to work in secret and only informed the communities involved — and even the shelter’s operator — after the fact and with next to no time to prepare. And even after announcing the decision, the administration has failed to listen or meaningfully engage the Lucerne residents, who don’t want to move, or the FiDi community. The administration’s handling of this move has built deep distrust among all those affected, and it has exacerbated an already stressful situation for the Lucerne men. This was largely avoidable, and the Financial District Neighborhood Association looks forward to the City’s response to our recent FOIL requests, so that we can figure out why this happened, and hopefully shine a light so that this kind of disengaged decision-making doesn’t happen again.”
Another perspective comes from Caitlyn Dooley, one of the founders of a similarly named (but separate) group, the Friends of FiDi, who says, “our focus is on the men.” She adds that, “we take issue with these men being subjected to trauma after trauma,” in a reference to the multiple relocations, from one facility to another, that the homeless men now destined for 52 William Street have faced in recent months. “Now the Mayor’s plan is re-traumatizing them. These men should not be moved, because they do not want to be.”
“But,” Ms. Dooley adds, “if the move does go through, our focus will be to work closely with the men, to make sure they feel welcome and supported as our new neighbors.”
Friends of FiDi has formed a welcoming committee, which plans to greet the homeless men as they move into the Radisson New York Wall Street, offering them gift bags that will include complimentary MetroCards and food items.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
1) Policing in Perspective by Brian Nelsen, Community Affairs Officer, New York Police Department 1st Precinct
2) New York State Housing Legislation – Discussion and reports by New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Peter Nguyen Legislative Director, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou Office and Andra Stanley, Housing Committee Director and Counsel
3) Walking While Trans Ban NYS Legislation – Discussion
4) Racism as Public Health Crisis – Presentation by Pauline Ferrante, Office of External Affairs, Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
5) The Anti-Racism in public act of 2020 – Report by Hanna Weinerman, Congressman Nadler’s Office – Possible resolution
6) Columbia Presbyterian Downtown Hospital – Presentation by Dr. Brenan Famer, Site Chief of Emergency Medicine
7) Affordability and Housing for 80/20 Tenants at 225 Rector Place – Report by board member Justine Cuccia
8) Capital and Expense Budget Items for FY 2022 – Discussion
What’s Up, Dock?
Pier A Restaurant and Bar Shuts Down
The Harbor House Restaurant on Pier A has shut down, with no definite plan to reopen. A spokesman for the Battery Park City Authority says that agency, “is working with all relevant parties to determine a path forward.”
This distress (which predates the restaurant-industry woes triggered by the pandemic coronavirus and the economic slowdown that followed) was highlighted in December, 2018. To read more…
Fresh as a Daisy
Daisy Peaz Honored as Woman of Distinction
Daisy Paez, a Lower East Side activist who has served for years as a local District Leader, and is a universally revered matriarch among Downtown’s political and community family, was honored recently by State Senator Brian Kavanagh as a Woman of Distinction—an accolade conferred each year by the upper house of the Albany legislature, recognizing women across New York who are impacting their communities, while setting an example for future generations of New Yorkers.
Earlier this year, Ms. Paez successfully waged a life-and-death battle with the pandemic coronavirus, during which she struggled for many weeks, first at New York Presbyterian’s Lower Manhattan Hospital, then at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, in White Plains.
Advocacy Group File Suit to Halt Plan for Homeless Shelter in FiDi
A group of Lower Manhattan residents opposed to the plan recently announced by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to relocate more than 200 homeless men to a vacant hotel in the Financial District filed suit on Wednesday to block the move.
The group, Downtown New Yorkers, Inc., which organized in recent weeks to mobilize against the plan, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire attorneys and bring legal actions. Some of those funds have been used to retain lawyer Ken Fisher, a former member of the New York City Council (where he represented a district in Brooklyn from 1991 through 2001), who later went on to found the New York City Chapter of the New York League of Conservation Voters, and serve as founding chair of the board of the Governors Island Alliance. He is also a past chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Land Use, Planning & Zoning Committee.
On Wednesday, Mr. Fisher filed in New York State Supreme Court an Article 78 petition, which is the legal mechanism via which private-sector parties can seek court-ordered relief from decisions by government agencies.
Remembering the Woman Who Said: “the World Is Poisoned with Erroneous Theories and Needs to be Taught Sane Doctrines”
On Monday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo observed Columbus Day by presiding over a ceremony at South Cove, along the Battery Park City Esplanade, to dedicate the Mother Cabrini Memorial—commemorating the 19th-century Italian-American nun who founded more than 60 orphanages, hospitals, and schools to help New York’s needy, and later became (in 1946) the first naturalized U.S. citizen to be canonized a Catholic saint.
“Last year, on this very day,” Mr. Cuomo said, “we announced that we build a statue to Mother Cabrini. There was no doubt that she deserved it, that Mother Cabrini had not received the proper recognition that she deserved. And New Yorkers wanted to memorialize her. We did it in one year. We formed a commission, found a location, identified the funding, and the sculptors brought it to life and did a magnificent job.” To read more…
Democratic Group Endorses Young Activist for City Council
The Downtown Independent Democrats (DID), an influential political club based in Lower Manhattan, has endorsed Christopher Marte in his campaign for the City Council seat that will be vacated by Margaret Chin next year, as a result of term limits.
Mr. Marte has a long track record of engagement, starting in the Lower East Side neighborhood where he grew up, and culminating in a City Council run in 2017, which he lost by only a few hundred votes.
Losses and Closures Mount Among Downtown Dining Spots
A new report from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli documents the impact of the ongoing pandemic coronavirus on the restaurant industry in Lower Manhattan.
In this report, Mr. DiNapoli finds, there were 1,981 operating restaurants and bars before the pandemic began, which places Lower Manhattan behind only the Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown Business District PUMA area, with 2,661 such establishments. (Together, these two areas account for nearly 40 percent of the City’s restaurant jobs.) To read more…
Quay to Success
Pier 26 Opens with Amenities Galore
The tally of great public spaces in Lower Manhattan has increased by one. Last Wednesday, the Hudson River Park Trust officially opened Pier 26 in Tribeca (near Hubert Street), the product of a decade-plus of planning and construction, and a $37-million budget.
The result is 2.5 acres of woodland forest, coastal grassland, maritime scrub, and a rocky tidal zone—all culminating in a breathtaking view of the Hudson River. Additionally included in the design are a multi-use recreation field and a spacious sunning lawn, as well as boardwalks and seating areas. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
202 BC – Second Punic War: At the Battle of Zama, Roman legions under Scipio Africanus defeat Hannibal Barca, leader of the army defending Carthage.
439 – The Vandals, led by King Gaiseric, take Carthage in North Africa.
1386 – The Universität Heidelberg holds its first lecture, making it the oldest German university.
1512 – Martin Luther becomes a doctor of theology.
1789 – John Jay is sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States.
1912 – Italo-Turkish War: Italy takes possession of what is now Libya from the Ottoman Empire.
1935 – The League of Nations places economic sanctions on Italy for its invasion of Ethiopia.
1960 – The United States imposes a near-total trade embargo against Cuba.
1973 – President Nixon rejects an Appeals Court decision that he turn over the Watergate tapes.
1987 – Black Monday: The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls by 22%, 508 points.
2005 – Saddam Hussein goes on trial in Baghdad for crimes against humanity.
1688 – William Cheselden, English surgeon and anatomist (d. 1752)
1862 – Auguste Lumière, French director and producer (d. 1954)
1922 – Jack Anderson, American journalist and author (d. 2005)
1931 – John le Carré, English intelligence officer and author
1937 – Peter Max, German-American illustrator
1956 – Grover Norquist, American activist, founded Americans for Tax Reform
1587 – Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (b. 1541)
1745 – Jonathan Swift, Irish satirist and essayist (b. 1667)
1897 – George Pullman, American engineer and businessman, founded the Pullman Company (b. 1831)
1945 – N. C. Wyeth, American painter and illustrator (b. 1882)
1950 – Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet and playwright (b. 1892)
1952 – Edward S. Curtis, American ethnologist and photographer (b. 1868)
Credits include wikipedia and other internet sources