‘Such Parties Have No Grievance That Is Ripe for Review’
Judge Rules City Can Proceed with Plan for Homeless Shelter in FiDi
On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the City shut down for the Thanksgiving holiday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Debra James nullified a temporary restraining order (TRO) she had issued on October 19, which had provisionally halted a plan by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to transfer more than 200 homeless men from a hotel on the Upper West Side to another hotel in the Financial District.
This ruling followed two days of argument the previous week, focused on that TRO, which barred the City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) from moving ahead with the plan, based on arguments from attorney Michael S. Hiller, acting on behalf of the homeless men, who were originally scheduled to be transferred from the Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street to the Radisson New York Wall Street (52 William Street) in early October. Mr. Hiller argued that planned move “would have a devastating effect on the lives and well-being of the Lucerne Residents.” This filing cited the specific cases of three homeless men who currently reside at the Lucerne Hotel—Ramone Buford, Larry Thomas, and Travis Trammell—along with the 200-plus other men who were expected to move with them.
In a ruling that prompted calls from one faction of organizations and rebuffed the pleas of another coalition of groups, Justice James wrote that the “petition to restrain respondents City of New York, Bill de Blasio, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of New York, the New York City Department of Homeless Services, and Steven Banks, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, from relocating such petitioners and other persons currently residing at the Lucerne Hotel is denied on the grounds that this court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of such petition, and the temporary restraining order issued on Oct. 19, 2020 is hereby vacated.”
The two coalitions were led by competing groups on the Upper West Side—one pushing for the move downtown, the other fighting to keep the men uptown. Those two sides were joined by lawyers for the City of New York (arguing in favor of the Mayor’s decision), and another group based in Lower Manhattan, Downtown New Yorkers for Safe Streets, which opposed the plan. Added to this mix of litigants were the homeless men themselves, represented by Mr. Hiller.
Mr. Hiller had argued that, “a significant portion of the Upper West Side community has also now embraced the men, and a neighborhood non-profit has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide them employment, mental and other health programs, and recreational activities. The men do not want to leave the Lucerne, and are making substantial progress in their recovery.”
Joining Mr. Hiller’s motion on behalf of his clients was Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who argued in a separate affidavit that, “with the support of the community, [the homeless men at the Lucerne] have an opportunity to bring some normalcy to their battered lives, to receive the support they deserve to create stability and opportunity and—most of all—to be part of a community that has come to embrace and support them.”
Attorneys for the City introduced a new argument in their presentation to Justice James, contending that the availability of 1,000 square feet of recreational space at the downtown Radisson (which the Lucerne does not have) will be a crucial amenity for the homeless men, now that cold weather has arrived.
Lawyers for the de Blasio administration were joined by attorneys representing the West Side Community Organization (based in the neighborhood near the Lucerne Hotel), who argued that the Radisson also offers a larger number of single rooms, as well as space for medical and therapeutic services, as well as job training support.
About the homeless men represented by Mr. Hiller, Justice James wrote in her Wednesday ruling that, “the intervening residents have no right to choose their own temporary placements. Thus, such parties have no grievance that is ripe for review, having suffered no harm cognizable under the law, and this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the intervening parties’ premature pleadings must be dismissed.”
Downtown New Yorkers responded to the ruling by saying in a statement that the group, “is deeply disappointed with the judge’s decision and we will immediately file an appeal. We intend to continue this fight and we expect to win the case on the merits.”
The dueling litigants based on the Upper West Side alternately praised and condemned Wednesday’s ruling. The West Side Community Organization said in a statement that the group, “applauds the Manhattan Supreme Court’s decision to allow the City to proceed with its plan to move the residents at the Lucerne Hotel to a better, safer, and more comprehensive facility [at] 52 William Street that offers individual rooms, onsite medical and addiction services, recreational space, and job training/placement programs.” Although the Upper West Side Community Organization focused its court arguments on the well-being of the homeless men now domiciled in the Lucerne, it appears to have been formed largely in response to the concerns of Upper West Side residents who wished for those men to be moved elsewhere.
Opposing this view was the Upper West Side Open Hearts Initiative, which argued for keeping the men at the Lucerne. That group issued a release saying that Justice James, “ruled that the court cannot block the City’s plans to move the men of the Lucerne Downtown, on the procedural grounds that shelter residents are required to seek legal remedy for transfers only once they have been moved. The mayor can still drop the transfer and allow the men to stay at the Lucerne where they have on site services, jobs through Goddard Riverside, and a wealth of community support.”
Áine Duggan, president and chief executive of the Partnership for the Homeless (an advocacy group), responded to the ruling by saying the “decision about displacing the residents of the Lucerne is particularly harmful because it gives yet another experience of housing loss and instability to a vulnerable population of our fellow New Yorkers who have already been deeply traumatized by the same. We applaud those in the community who stood up against such bias and discrimination, because they recognized the faces of those being displaced as their neighbors, friends and coworkers. Creating a pathway of housing stability for people who have experienced homelessness is key to preventing homelessness into the future.”
State Senator Brian Kavanagh said, “I’m disappointed in [the] court decision to permit New York City to move nearly 200 men from the Lucerne. They’ve been living there for months and there’s been much progress working with the local community and improving services, including an initiative to offer job opportunities.”
He added, “there may be further litigation, but in any case, I continue to urge Mayor de Blasio to reverse this capricious and heartless plan. If the move does occur, we’ll do our best to ensure that services are in place to provide stable, secure transitional housing, albeit in a challenging site.”
Justice James’s decision appears to clear the way for the City to begin moving men from the Lucerne to the Radisson as early as this week. This plan will also require moving out of the Radisson several dozen homeless men (previously at facilities other than the Lucerne) that DHS had moved in after the October 19 temporary restraining order, which applied only to homeless men in the Lucerne.
That noted, the legal maneuvering surrounding this issue is far from over. While Downtown New Yorkers for Safe Streets are planning an appeal of the narrow of the decision to lift the TRO issued in October, the group is also seeking a full trial before Justice James, on the broader issue of the legality of the City’s decision. Such a trial appears unlikely to start until early 2021.
In the meantime, the move to the Lucerne is described by City officials as a stopgap measure, prior to implementing their longer-term plan to convert the Radisson New York Wall Street into a permanent shelter for homeless families with adult children. For most of the men now slated to be moved into the Radisson (and scheduled to move out again, as that facility switches over the families), these will be the fourth and fifth moves in as many months.
Even This Year, Thankful for What Is Easy, While the How Comes Harder
Walking home at twilight in the near-deserted concrete canyons, you recall (for no reason that you can discern) the Old Man teaching you the word “dichotomy” a lifetime ago, and telling you that a coin toss coming up either heads or tails is the only obvious pair of opposites in this world. “All the others are slippery,” he said. “For example, the flip side of good is not evil, but ignorance. And the converse of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Even the opposite of poverty isn’t affluence, it’s justice.”
“And the trickiest one of all,” he said, “is being thankful. Because the opposite of gratitude isn’t ingratitude. It’s fear.” You didn’t even pretend to understand most of this, but rather—in the manner of an erstwhile altar boy who had recently shed his cassock, but found it harder to shake the catechism—made a vow to remember it.
“Gratitude and fear are doppelgängers,” your forebear continued (crowbarring yet another new word into your adolescent brain), “because we all know how to be afraid, but are always trying to figure out what we should or shouldn’t be frightened of. And the reverse is true—we all have a pretty good idea of what we should give thanks for, but are almost never sure about how to do it.”
Thank you, Matthew Fenton, for your insightful article. It was so well said and a stark reminder of our everyday street life. It was artfully and thoughtfully
written filled with words that stopped me in my tracks and gave them a simpler
and kinder approach and meaning.
To the editor:
We all have much to be thankful for: the Old Men in our lives, the editors and the publishers, and the wisdom of a country that declares a national day of Thankfulness.
To the editor:
Beautiful piece, Opposites Distract. Thank you for sharing.
To the editor:
I’m thankful to Matthew Fenton for giving us such a beautiful portrait of his father here (Opposites Distract), and for his many other thoughtful, deeply humane essays.
EYES TO THE SKY
November 30 – December 13, 2020
Full Snow Moon rises this afternoon, winter stars follow, planets delight
November 30, 2020 at 7:25pm. Orion rises earlier every night going forward, e.g. 6pm on the 13th. Red arc represents the Milky Way.
Image: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight
The Full Snow Moon rises above the east-northeast horizon this afternoon at 4:48pm, nearly simultaneous with sunset in the southwest at 4:29pm. See moonrise about an hour later every evening and sunset remaining within seconds of 4:29pm until the winter solstice, which occurs on December 21.
Mornings, awake to the intriguing spectacle of moonset in the west-northwest as the Sun rises in the southeast. Tomorrow, December 1, sunrise is at 7:01am, while the great orb of the moon will be visible in the daylight blue sky until 8:08am. See the moon higher and longer in the morning sky – in waning gibbous phase – everyday this week. The Sun rises about a minute later everyday through the 26th: Sunrise is at 7:12 on 13th.
During the long nights that precede the arrival of astronomical winter on December 21, we have the opportunity to observe the celestial harbinger of the new season, the constellation Orion, in both the darkness of night and pre-dawn sky. See the sky view diagram, above, that shows the figure of Orion rising into the nighttime sky within a few hours of sunset and, in the diagram below, the iconic constellation setting in the pre-dawn sky. For best viewing of the diagrams, increase light on computer screen.
Morning sky one-hour before sunrise on December 1, 2020 and similar through the 13th. The phase and position of the moon changes. Orion, Sirius and Taurus set about an hour earlier, about 5am. Illustration by Judy Isacoff/StarryNight
Glancing back to the diagram of the evening sky, notice rusty gold Mars in the southeast midway between the rising moon in the east and Saturn and Jupiter in the southwest. Jupiter sets at 7:45 this evening, close to 7pm on the 13th. Saturn follows Jupiter. Observe these planets as they appear closer to each other every night.
Calling all Performing Artists: Mark DeGarmo Dance Seeks Applicants for the 2020-2021 season of its Virtual Salon Performance Series: a sharing of works-in-progress with a facilitated audience response curated and facilitated by dancer, choreographer, writer, and researcher, Dr. Mark DeGarmo.
Mark DeGarmo Dance seeks applicants for the 2020-2021 season of its Virtual Salon Performance Series, a showcase of original artistic works-in-progress with a facilitated audience response session. Performing artists are invited to apply via the above GoogleForm by Saturday, December 3rd, 11:59PM ET. All Virtual Performances will be held on Zoom. Apply nowmarkdegarmodance.org
Downtown Restaurants Brace for More Closure Orders
As New York wades deeper into its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, some local restaurants are trying to get ahead of the curve of anticipated closures by voluntarily shutting down both indoor and outdoor dining.
Among these is Blue Smoke, in Battery Park City, owned by legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which is also taking similar measures at the company’s Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern.
Distressed Downtown Real Estate Indicators Point South
The first Baron Rothschild is said to have advised, “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” If he was correct, this may be an auspicious moment to purchase real estate in Lower Manhattan, where the distress is acute. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
977 – Emperor Otto II lifts the siege at Paris and withdraws. His rearguard is defeated while crossing the Aisne River by Frankish forces under King Lothair III.
1782 – American Revolutionary War: Treaty of Paris: In Paris, representatives from the United States and Great Britain sign preliminary peace articles (later formalized as the 1783 Treaty of Paris).
1803 – In New Orleans, Spanish representatives officially transfer the Louisiana Territory to an official from the French First Republic. Just 20 days later, France transfers the same land to the United States as the Louisiana Purchase.
1934 – The Flying Scotsman becomes the first steam locomotive to be authenticated as reaching 100 mph.
1936 – In London, the Crystal Palace is destroyed by fire.
1954 – In Sylacauga, Alabama, United States, the Hodges meteorite crashes through a roof and hits a woman taking an afternoon nap; this is the only documented case in the Western Hemisphere of a human being hit by a rock from space.
1966 – Barbados becomes independent from the United Kingdom.
1967 – South Yemen becomes independent from the United Kingdom.
1999 – Exxon and Mobil sign a US$73.7 billion agreement to merge, thus creating ExxonMobil, the world’s largest company.
2018 – A magnitude 7.0 earthquake with its epicenter 15 miles from Anchorage, Alaska causes significant property damage but no deaths.
1508 – Andrea Palladio, Italian architect and theoretician, designed the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and Teatro Olimpico (d. 1580)
1667 – Jonathan Swift, Irish satirist and essayist (d. 1745)
1810 – Oliver Winchester, American businessman and politician, founded the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (d. 1880)
1835 – Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, American novelist, humorist, and critic (d. 1910)
1874 – Winston Churchill, English colonel, journalist, and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1965)
1874 – Lucy Maud Montgomery, English-Canadian author and poet (d. 1942)
1904 – Clyfford Still, American painter and educator (d. 1980)
1936 – Abbie Hoffman, American activist and author, co-founded the Youth International Party (d. 1989
1647 – Bonaventura Cavalieri, Italian mathematician and astronomer (b. 1598)
1900 – Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, and poet (b. 1854)
1953 – Francis Picabia, French painter and poet (b. 1879)
1979 – Zeppo Marx, American actor and comedian (b. 1901)