Controversial Homeless Shelter in FiDi Slated to Close
Above: In March, 2020, shortly after the Radisson New York Wall Street Hotel was repurposed as a homeless shelter, a guard posted in the lobby demanded that a reporter leave, after refusing to answer questions about the use of the facility. Below: The exterior of the Radisson New York Wall Street Hotel, at 52 William Street.
The administration of Mayor Eric Adams has decided to close a homeless shelter in the Financial District that was opened by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio as an emergency measure during the COVID pandemic. In a story first reported by Gothamist, the Radisson New York Wall Street Hotel (located at 52 William Street, near Pine Street) will cease to operate as a facility for homeless people by the end of June.
A spokesman for the City’s Department of Social Services (DSS) told The Broadsheet, “after further review of this shelter as an emergency COVID site and reviewing our capacity and the operational needs of this site, we have decided to end the long-term use of this commercial hotel.” The spokesman added that DSS and the City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS), “will prioritize the smooth transition for all clients to new placements that meet their needs. To that end, DHS and shelter staff will focus on identifying permanent housing where possible. Clients who cannot be placed in permanent housing will be connected to suitable shelter placements that meet their needs, including approved reasonable accommodations.”
The move to operate the Radisson as a shelter unleashed a firestorm of controversy in March 2020, in large measure because the de Blasio administration appeared to have made every effort to conceal the plan until after it had been implemented. It was six months before City Hall revealed the full scope of this initiative, and then only because they planned to expand it, by designating the Radisson as a permanent homeless shelter. That announcement was made on a Friday evening, before a three-day holiday weekend, provoking additional fury and mistrust among Lower Manhattan community leaders.
In a parallel controversy, some advocates for the homeless also opposed the plan to fill the Radisson with unsheltered people, because it envisioned uprooting hundreds of DHS clients from a hotel on the Upper West Side, where they had been housed for many months, and where they were supported by services from multiple nearby non-profit organizations.
This triggered a series of lawsuits that stretched through 2021, demanding fuller disclosure and consultation with the community, among other procedural objections. During the intervening months, the City repeatedly modified its plans, changing the mission of the Radisson from a quarantine facility to a shelter for single men, to a shelter for families. The DSS also gradually scaled down its ambitions, from an original intent to house more than 200 homeless people at the hotel, to revised program that aimed to shelter only about 70 clients at the site.
Patrick Kennell, president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association, said, “once again, residents of the Financial District are learning about the fate of the 52 William Street shelter only from news reports, not from City Hall. While we certainly understand Mayor Adams and his team have their hands full with many pressing issues around New York City, it would have been better to notify and engage with the community about this decision beforehand. The new administration’s decision to close 52 William in the coming months raises more questions than answers. Hopefully, the community will get answers soon and the current residents of the 52 William shelter will be placed in sustained and affordable housing.”
Mariama James, a local leader and affordable housing advocate who was involved in the community’s response to the Radisson controversy from its earliest stages, said, “I’ve long been an advocate for the homeless of Lower Manhattan, going all the way back to when I was a teen and my mother and I would each push a shopping cart full of food we’d bought and cooked to City Hall every Friday evening to feed our unhoused neighbors. But I can’t say that I’m sorry to see this shelter go.”
She added, “the practice of requiring a Community Board, as opposed to neighborhood, to take on shelters has resulted in an over-saturation of these facilities in the Financial District. In order for ‘fair share’ to truly be fair and for no area to become overburdened, we need to shift to putting just one in each neighborhood, not each Community Board.”
This was a reference to the fact that the Radisson was one of at least five Lower Manhattan hotels commandeered by the City for service as homeless shelters. The others were the DoubleTree by Hilton (8 Stone Street), the Holiday Inn Express (126 Water Street), the Holiday Inn (51 Nassau Street), and the Hilton Garden Inn (6 Water Street).
“Even better,” Ms. James argued, “would be to put the money we’re spending on these places toward mental health programs and permanent housing, and to stop creating new homeless people with unfavorable zoning changes, luxury development and gentrification. Instead, we should fund genuinely affordable housing that allows people to raise families and age in place, as the Coalition for a 100 Percent Affordable Five World Trade Center and our supporters have conceived for that site.”
[Re: It Would be an Abomination; Local Leaders Consider Pragmatic and Aesthetic Aspects of Cobblestones,April 25, 2022]
To the editor,
As a disabled person who lives on Vestry Street my opinion is that the cobblestones should stay. DOT could learn how to lay cobblestones if assigned the task. My physical therapist has me walk on the cobblestones for balance. I have a tricycle that I ride over the cobblestones. It’s hard on the bike but it’s fun.
To the editor,
To use such an environmentally unfriendly material as asphalt is a throwback to 1950’s thinking.
1). It is impossible to make any surface 100% safe for walkers. At some point people must take their own responsibility as to where they are going. Suggestions: As a public aid, one possibility would be to put concrete paths in the middle of long cobblestone stretches, and to have similar paths at both ends of streets. For vehicles/bikers, etc., signage could be placed at entrances of streets with simple appropriate warnings.
2). In addition, asphalt would increase the ‘heat island’ effect even as we are trying to reduce it. To even consider using an environmentally unsound petroleum product such as asphalt is truly beyond belief!
To the editor,
[Re: Two Decades Later, What about the Children? April 22, 2022]
Thank you for your very informative article. It is encouraging that another effort is being contemplated by the City to contact and track the school children of 9/11. As a group, they have been very difficult to reach. However, it is certainly not true that nothing has been done previously to locate these children. In fact, very active outreach has been conducted among the survivor community since, well, almost 9/11.
Among these efforts have been a succession of projects by 9/11 Environmental Action that included bringing clinicians at the WTC Pediatric Program to downtown events to meet and educate the parents of affected school children. In addition, three times, with extra push from Congressman Nadler, the Department of Education has sent mailings to former students’ households. Included was an email to parents from Mayor Bill de Blasio that was translated into 14 languages.
And there is the outreach done by StuyHealth, which has pioneered the use of social media to reach 9/11-affected students near and far.
I hope that the “lessons learned” in the work of these and other groups will be built upon in any new efforts to contact and help young survivors. I encourage Borough President Mark Levine and Council member Christopher Marte and their staffs to learn about the good work that has been done by community organizations, the WTC Environmental Health Center, and the WTC Health Registry over the years, as well as the challenges these efforts have faced, so that they can best work with the community on next steps in reaching young survivors.
9/11 survivor, local resident, former co-chair of the WTC Environmental Health Center’s Community Advisory Committee
To the editor,
[Re: This Day in History, April 25, 2022]
In your obit section, Rudolph Hess was listed as merely “a German politician.”
Surely, at least “Nazi” or “high ranking Nazi” should have been added.
Amending the Authority
Niou and CB1 Push Longer Leases, Caps on Cost Hikes, and a Voice for Residents
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has introduced a pair of bills in the Albany legislature that closely track recent resolutions by Community Board 1 (CB1), and address a trio of issues that have long vexed local leaders.
Ready to get their hands in some dirt, downtown gardeners came out for Liberty Community Gardens first gathering of the season, on April 23. Dana and Sarah, master gardeners from BPC Parks, stopped by with gifts of seeds and seed pots, and lots of good advice. Mindy tended her blackberry vines. Mike offered homemade cookies. Katie admired her pansies. Sean brought tomato seedlings grown on his windowsill to share. Heidi neatened the tool bin. Judy pruned her rosebush. Jeneane, Yana, and John and his kids got together to talk about what to plant along the borders. And Chris, the newest community gardener, checked out his plot for the first time.
‘It Would Be an Abomination’
Local Leaders Consider Pragmatic and Aesthetic Aspects of Cobblestones
Community Board 1 (CB1) is weighing whether to recommend that the City tear up historic cobblestone streets in Tribeca and resurface them with asphalt. A resolution debated at the Board’s March meeting notes that the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) rebuilt seven local cobblestone streets more than a decade ago, and observes, “it almost immediately became apparent that the cobblestone work on these streets was poor, as they began to deteriorate, including loose blocks, disintegrating mortar, and emerging depressions.”
Taxpayers Will Contribute $150 Million in Subsidies, Plus 24-Hour Ferry Service
The administration of Mayor Eric Adams is moving ahead with the plan to build a Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island. On Thursday, the Trust for Governors Island issued a request for proposals (RFP) to the four finalists designated by City Hall (as one of Bill de Blasio’s final acts of Mayor) in the competition to combine interdisciplinary research on climate change with education in a single physical hub. Universities from around the world were invited to submit proposals in the first stage, called a “request for expressions of interest.” A dozen plans were submitted, and four of these were deemed worthy of moving to the final round.
Borough President and Council Member Want City Agencies to Document Outreach to Former Lower Manhattan Students at Risk of September 11 Illnesses
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council member Christopher Marte are partnering to hold a pair of City agencies accountable for outreach to people who were students, teachers, or staff members at schools near the World Trade Center during the 2001-2002 school year.
Recognizing the Inevitability of Climate Change Impacts, Battery Park City Action Plan Aims to Make Neighborhood Carbon-Neutral by Mid-Century
The Battery Park City Authority has released its Climate Action Plan, which aims to transition by 2040 to 100 percent of the community’s electric power coming from renewable energy sources, along with a 99 percent reduction in transportation emissions by 2050.
Fanciful and mythic, timeless and of the moment, this celestial tableau depicts early morning harbinger of summer constellations with planets on the move in late April through early May, 2022. Notice the two unlabeled dots on the lower left of the diagram, above the horizon near the “E” and under the Great Square of Pegasus. The smaller point of light represents planet Jupiter, the larger is Venus. They are approaching each other. Find details below.
Illustration: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight 7
Enjoy spectacular morning stargazing: refer to the diagram, above. Radiant planet Venus appears in the east as if a great star rising in the darkness at daybreak, captivating as the rising Sun but without the need to look away from its steady light. Venus and Jupiter appear closer to one another each day. Look as often as possible to see the distance between them shrink. Be present especially on the mornings of April 29 through May 2. Their closest approach occurs April 30 and May 1, a spectacular planetary conjunction not to be seen again until the year 2039.
Open the following resources for ways to be a part of assuring a healthy Earth Day every day, and protecting dark skies for the vitality of all living beings.
Steeped in history, the capital city of Lima, Peru will welcome us with beautiful colonial vestiges of the Spanish occupation. Follow virtually in the footsteps of Manuel Bautista Perez, a key member of the “secret” Jewish community of Lima who was accused of being Jewish in 1635 and later killed by the Inquisition in 1639. Which begs questions that our tour guide will address about the Inquisition of Lima and the “Autos de Fe” (rituals of public penance.) Join the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Our Travel Circle for this special tour of one of the oldest non-indigenous communities in Lima, Peru. $36.
Lunchtime webinar with renowned journalist and master storyteller Roger Lowenstein, who will discuss his revelatory financial investigation into how Lincoln and his administration used the funding of the Civil War as the catalyst to centralize the government and accomplish the most far-reaching reform in the country’s history.
Meeting of the Board’s Audit & Finance Committee (12:30pm)
Meeting of the Directors of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy (2pm)
Meeting of the Members of the Authority (2:10pm)
Video recordings made available for post-meeting access via the BPCA website. A public comment period will be scheduled during the Meeting of the Members of the Authority. Anyone wishing to participate in the public comment period should submit their comments via email to email@example.com no later than 5:30pm on the day prior to the meeting. Comments should be no longer than two minutes in length, and may be read into the record during the livestream broadcast.
Chinese literature can offer readers an extraordinary window into China, but for newcomers to this rich and complex world, where does one begin? Today, learn about the Guide to Contemporary Chinese Literature, an authoritative 300-page bird’s-eye view of Chinese fiction since the middle of last century. This roundtable event brings together three contributors to the Guide: Paper Republic co-founder, Eric Abrahamsen, and two essay authors, Ping Zhu and Dylan Levi King.
Zoom lecture presented by Catherine Prescott & Mary Tsaltas-Ottomanelli. This installment of Tavern Tastings explores the history of whiskey: its creation, rise in popularity during the 18th century in North America, and how its role in the economy of the burgeoning United States incited a rebellion. Free; suggested donation of $10.
On Saturdays and Sundays, visit the exhibitions and the ships of the South Street Seaport Museum for free. At 12 Fulton Street, see “South Street and the Rise of New York” and “Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900-1914,” and at Pier 16, explore the tall ship Wavertree and lightship Ambrose.