Online Meeting Tonight Will Preview City Plan to House Homeless in FiDi Hotel
The Radisson New York Wall Street, at 52 William Street,
is the site of a planned homeless shelter.
Lower Manhattan residents and community leaders are scrambling to formulate a response to the announcement, circulated last Friday evening, that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to use a hotel in the Financial District as a homeless shelter.
The hotel, known as the Radisson New York Wall Street, is located at 52 William Street, between Wall and Pine Streets. Housing homeless persons there is actually not a new development. As the Broadsheet reported six months ago, the City’s Department of Homeless Services (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. This is one of more than 60 such hotels throughout the five boroughs that have been commandeered, on an interim basis, as a emergency public-health measure designed to protect not only homeless people, but the broader population with whom they come into daily contact.
But DHS now appears to plan on a longer-term occupancy of the hotel at 52 William Street. This move seems to have been spurred by local resistance to a similar use for the Lucerne Hotel, on the Upper West Side, after residents in that community organized, raised funds, and hired lawyers to compel DHS to abort plans for 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.
Tonight (Thursday, October 1), the DHS and the City’s Department of Social Services (DSS) will host an online meeting, starting at 6:00 pm, to answer questions about the plan. This session can be accessed by the Live Remote Meetings portal, hosted by Community Board 1 (CB1). A link can be found at: https://live.mcb1.nyc
Patrick Kennell, president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association (FDNA), said, “like many of our neighbors, the FDNA was surprised by the news—dropped late on a Friday night of a holiday weekend—of City Hall’s imminent plan to establish a permanent homeless shelter at the former Radisson Hotel on William Street in FiDi. According to news reports, the City’s plan would move a group of some 200-300 homeless men from the Upper West Side’s Lucerne Hotel to William Street in FiDi.”
“We share our neighbors’ deep concerns over the impacts this plan could have, not just for FiDi neighbors but for the Lucerne residents, too,” he continued. “Many of those concerns are legitimate reactions to a Mayoral administration providing absolutely no community notice or engagement on such an important step. We know our neighbors are compassionate and thoughtful people looking for verifiable information—not rumors, social media anecdotes and unspecific news reports.”
The FDNA is calling upon the de Blasio Administration to hold off on moving the homeless men in the Lucerne to the Radisson New York Wall Street until DHS has released a comprehensive written plan, including an analysis that outlines delivery of services, costs, and security.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged Mayor de Blasio, “to reverse his decision to move the [homeless men] at the Lucerne to another hotel Downtown, the third or fourth such move for many of the residents. The relocation is being done on a very accelerated basis and with no planning process for the new site.”
City Council member Margaret Chin said, “moving these residents from one district to another like a game of ping pong without a holistic plan for how they will be meaningfully supported will simply worsen their trauma and cause more disruption to their lives. They are not asking for a band-aid decision grounded in political convenience—they want permanent solutions that help ensure their stability and recovery.”
“Before taking any action, I urge the City to share how it will engage Lucerne residents on the plans impacting their future, and how it plans to provide shelter to the homeless individuals in my district,” she continued, adding that, “in the meantime, I encourage my fellow New Yorkers committed to helping our homeless population and expanding supportive housing to stand against any rhetoric that dehumanizes this vulnerable community. We need moral clarity, not more division. This is a complex issue that has already taken a toll on real lives, and we must work together to approach it with the humanity and compassion it demands of us.”
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou said, “I have always fought for community engagement and open lines of communication for any decision that affects our community, and this situation will be no different. Our office was informed of the Mayor’s plan to set up a permanent homeless shelter at the former Radisson Hotel on Friday night. It is severely disappointing and unacceptable that the City continues to make decisions that affect our community without proper community engagement. Our community deserves to be heard and I remain committed to advocating for a transparent, community-focused process.”
CB1 chair Tammy Meltzer said, “like our neighbors, CB1 was stunned by the news announced on Friday night of the plan to change the operation of an emergency COVID-19 quarantine shelter on 52 William Street into a temporary shelter which will accommodate a move of approximately 240 men from their current location at the Lucerne, on the Upper West Side, to William Street in FiDi. While it was originally reported that the new shelter would begin operation on October 5th, that opening date is now pushed back and has yet to be announced.”
“CB1 has many concerns,” she continued, “from the lack of transparency, communication and engagement with the community. CB1 represents the needs of all of our community and it is unclear what this plan does to help the ever-growing vulnerable population already living on the streets within our district, and additionally considers neither the unique challenges of the local built environment, nor its resources. It is important that we are able to advocate for the people in CB1 based on facts and robust public engagement.”
Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, said, “over the course of our near-26 year history, the Alliance has made it part of our mission to serve the homeless population in Lower Manhattan. We are proud of our work, with partners and providers, to successfully move hundreds and hundreds of homeless New Yorkers off our streets and into shelter and treatment. This much we know from our experience: homeless New Yorkers should not be used as political footballs. First and foremost, vulnerable populations need stability and services. Moving this population from the Lucerne on the Upper West Side to the Radisson downtown is incredibly disruptive to them and flies in the face of both of those needs.”
She continued, “we deserve transparency, open dialogue, and honesty. Given the proximity to local schools and daycare facilities, is this site appropriate? What are the City’s plans to care for and treat these clients? What resources are being committed to this effort? If this is to be permanent, how is the City bypassing any regulatory approval process?”
Ms. Lappin concluded that, “the City should immediately suspend the reported move date to allow this community to better understand the Administration’s plan and decision-making. We would like to see proper planning for services and accommodations for the homeless living on our streets in CB1, and have some confidence that this move is in the best interests of the residents at the Lucerne.”
Paul Hovitz, former vice chairman of CB1, said, “we certainly support these challenged individuals getting proper assistance. The Wall Street hotel that is scheduled to accept the Lucerne population previously housed COVID patients. If the Lucerne population is unacceptable for our Upper Westside neighbors, it is unacceptable for Downtown, the fastest growing residential community in New York City.”
These restrained reservations have been given an angrier voice by a newly formed group, Downtown Safe Streets, the website for which says, “We are New Yorkers banded together to advocate for a safer Downtown New York and devote ourselves to upholding the integrity of our neighborhood.” The site continues, “Downtown New York City residents are outraged after becoming aware… that the City has put in motion a secret initiative to permanently designate the Radisson Hotel on Wall Street into a homeless shelter for over 240 men as a ‘solution’ for the unfolding crisis occurring on the Upper West Side as a direct result of the failed experiment of the Lucerne Hotel.”
The group adds that, “with over a dozen schools within short distance from the Radisson, moving in over 240 men that have wreaked havoc in other parts of our borough is a blatant insult to the families and children of this neighborhood. Prioritizing optics over safety for young children is a new low for the Mayor,” and warns that, “a permanent or temporary transplant of the hundreds of men who have wreaked havoc in the failed experiment of the Lucerne Hotel to this neighborhood WILL NOT be tolerated.”
In a reprise of the neighborhood reaction that drove the City to abandon using the Lucerne as a shelter, this group has begun raising funds to hire a lawyer to seek a court order, barring DHS from continuing with the plan.
But other members of the Lower Manhattan community have a different perspective. Downtown resident Amy Goldstein reflects that, “I think that in the Lower Manhattan area, we CAN do better than the Upper West Side to bear a small portion of the burden the City faces at the time of this pandemic and economic uncertainty. I would be happy to hear more on what we can do to allow vulnerable New Yorkers to recover from trauma and ensure that our neighborhood is a safe place for all residents, including families, workers, and local business.”
Battery Park City resident Andrew Greenblatt says, “these are hard times for so many New Yorkers and we all need to do our part. I have two hopes as this shelter opens. First, that the City brings along enough staff to give the residents the support they need to get back on their feet. But second, homelessness will continue to be a major problem in this City as long as the housing supply isn’t meeting demand at an affordable price. No one wants demand to drop, since that would mean something like a rise in crime or a crumbling economy driving people out of the City. Instead, we need to increase supply by changing zoning to encourage the construction of high-density buildings around subway stops in parts of the City that are dominated by one- and two-family homes. Without more housing, we will be stuck with never-ending fights between NIMBY activists around the City.”
Jane Sujen Bock, a long-time Battery Park City resident and former Legal Aid lawyer for homeless families and individuals, observes, “it is important to note that the reason homeless men are being moved to the Financial District—putting themselves and shelter staff at risk at a time when we are all being asked to stay home—is because the Mayor is inexplicably accommodating a racist, NIMBY message from privileged Upper Westsiders who seek to bar these men from their neighborhood without legal basis. He should reverse his decision to move these men from the Upper West Side to the Financial District.”
“At the same time,” she adds, “our Downtown community for some time has been home to sheltered families and individuals, and we should continue to do our share. When so many of us were forced out of our homes on September 11, 2001, our neighbors and the City government took us in and provided financial support and wide-ranging services. Homeless people today are no less deserving and far more vulnerable, especially due to the pandemic. Providing decent housing and services to our homeless neighbors in every corner of the City—rather than having them live on the street, which causes dire medical and mental health consequences—will help all of us to be safe and thrive. The City should use the Financial District site to house homeless people who are still in congregate shelter or on the streets, at risk to themselves and to the community as the coronavirus spreads.”
Joanne Gorman, a resident of Southbridge Towers, argues that, “the recognition that all homeless individuals are not the same is paramount in any site and resource planning, and community engagement. By acknowledging that, maybe we wouldn’t face the knee-jerk reaction that allows a few to dominate how we handle what is now called our homeless crisis. Money thrown at temporary and expensive hotel housing can only be seen as money going down the drain. Take that money and invest in building proper, permanent housing. Individuals are shifted from one location to another like pawns who have no rights, and who are viewed uncomfortably as not fitting into or belonging in a particular neighborhood. If they don’t belong where I am, where do they belong?”
Fern Cunningham, who serves on CB1’s Quality of Life Committee, says, “I think this is much more nuanced than a reflexive hostility to a homeless shelter. The lack of communication and community engagement before placing a shelter—permanent or otherwise—on a narrow, congested street might have played a role in community concerns. Lower Manhattan is not unique in this lack of engagement and communication. I’ve heard similar concerns from people in less-affluent neighborhoods, which bear a disproportionate number of shelters—like the Bronx and Queens. I’m actually more concerned about the lack of affordable housing and the alarming rise in homelessness in the City over the last several years. Consequently, I’m more interested in knowing what the administration is doing about providing permanent housing to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.”
The Reverend Winnie Varghese, an Episcopal priest at Trinity Church, reflects that, “the biblical sense of neighbor—as in ‘who is my neighbor?’—is the question the rich young man asks Jesus. Jesus flips the question and tells the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is robbed and left on the road, and after other good people walk by, including a priest, a Samaritan man takes care of him, binding up his wounds, taking him to an inn and paying his costs, so that he can heal. Jesus then asks, ‘who was a neighbor to the man?’ As a faith community, we too seek to be good neighbors, and that is with a special attention to the most vulnerable among us, as Jesus illustrates in the story.
She continues, “the pandemic has only exacerbated the inequities in our city, and I am glad to hear that our neighborhood will serve our most vulnerable neighbors. You couldn’t be more Biblical if you tried. For those who are afraid of our new neighbors, being unhoused is a reality more and more Americans are facing. All New Yorkers deserve and have a right to adequate shelter. If there is actual behavior to be concerned about, we have ways of addressing that. If we are merely afraid of those with less resources than us, that is not right, and I hope that is not the face of our neighborhood we show to the City.”
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A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a 2019 decision by U.S. District Court judge Alvin Hellerstein, who tossed out the same bundle of 124 suits against the Authority, brought by rescue, recovery and cleanup workers who were made sick by exposure to hazardous materials while laboring in the community during the weeks and months after the destruction of the World Trade Center. To read more…
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More Than Half of All Students at Downtown Schools Opt for Remote Learning
As children are slated to return to public elementary schools today (along with public middle and high schools on Thursday), slightly more than half of all students in nine Lower Manhattan public schools plan to stay home and focus on remote learning, according to statistics from a State Department of Health (DOH) website.
The DOH’s School COVID-19 Report Card site contains preliminary data about how many students are expected to return to each school throughout the State, relative to the overall size of every school’s student body.
The nine Downtown schools included in this analysis are P.S/I.S. 276, P.S. 89, I.S. 289, P.S. 234, P.S. 343 (Peck Slip), P.S. 397 (Spruce Street), and P.S. 150, as well as Millennium High School and Stuyvesant High School. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Denmark was the only occupied country to actively resist the Nazi deportation of its Jewish citizens.
On the 77th anniversary of the historic Danish Rescue that saved 7,200 Jews, we will convene the filmmakers of the 1991 film A Day in October – a dramatic and compelling resistance narrative that brings one Jewish family’s story to life. $10 suggested donation
Battery Park City Authority Rockefeller Park River Terrace at Murray Street
Fall is a special time in BPC: along with the changes in trees and gardens, Monarch Butterflies and many species of unique birds are migrating through. Celebrate this time with art and nature activities. Participants are expected to bring their own general supplies, such as crayons, markers, colored pencils, watercolor paints (bring your own container of water), glue, and scissors. Pick up a “kit bag” with instructions for the project of the day. Program is first come, first served for up to 20 children with accompanying adults. Masks and contact information required upon arrival. Activity is self-guided. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance
Join LMHQ and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) for an exciting conversation with data journalist and multidisciplinary artist Mona Chalabi and Absolut Art Global Creative Director Michelle Grey. Mona and Michelle will discuss Mona’s 100 New Yorkers project, which is being displayed across screens at the Westfield World Trade Center now through November 30 as part of LMCC’s River To River 2020: Four Voices festival.
100 New Yorkers visualizes what the city’s population would look like if it were distilled from its ungraspable millions to a more relatable 100 individuals. Using census data, Mona has created 100 characters that, as accurately as possible, visualize the racial, economic and social realities of the city’s population.
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Retail Developer Wins Years-Long Struggle for Control of Legendary Bank Building
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TODAY IN HISTORY
1908 – Ford Model T automobiles are offered for sale at $825.
331 BC – Alexander the Great defeats Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Gaugamela.
1588 – Coronation of Shah Abbas I of Persia.
1791 – First session of the French Legislative Assembly.
1814 – Opening of the Congress of Vienna, intended to redraw Europe’s political map after the defeat of Napoleon the previous spring.
1890 – Yosemite National Park is established by the U.S. Congress.
1891 – Stanford University opens its doors in California.
1908 – Ford Model T automobiles are offered for sale at a price of US$825.
1910 – A large bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building, killing 21.
1928 – The Soviet Union introduces its first five-year plan.
1931 – The George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey and New York opens.
1940 – The Pennsylvania Turnpike, often considered the first superhighway in the United States, opens to traffic.
1946 – Nazi leaders are sentenced at the Nuremberg trials.
1946 – Mensa International is founded.
1957 – First appearance of In God We Trust on U.S. paper currency.
1964 – Japanese Shinkansen begin high-speed rail service from Tokyo to Osaka.
1969 – Concorde breaks the sound barrier for the first time.
1975 – Muhammad Ali defeats Joe Frazier in a boxing match in Manila, Philippines.
1982 – Sony and Phillips launch the compact disc in Japan.
2017 – Fifty-eight people are killed and 851 others injured in a mass shooting on a music festival in Las Vegas.
1207 – Henry III of England (d. 1272)
1730 – Richard Stockton, American lawyer, jurist, and politician (d. 1781)
1808 – Mary Anna Custis Lee, American wife of Robert E. Lee (d. 1873)
1881 – William Boeing, American engineer and businessman, founded the Boeing Company (d. 1956)
1903 – Vladimir Horowitz, Ukrainian-American pianist and composer (d. 1989)
1914 – Daniel J. Boorstin, 12th Librarian of Congress (d. 2004)
1920 – Walter Matthau, American actor (d. 2000)
1924 – Jimmy Carter, American lieutenant and politician, 39th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate
1924 – William Rehnquist, American lawyer and jurist, 16th Chief Justice of the United States (d. 2005)
1935 – Julie Andrews, English actress and singer
1956 – Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
686 – Emperor Tenmu of Japan (b. 631)
1310 – Beatrice of Burgundy, Lady of Bourbon (b. 1257)
1985 – E. B. White, American essayist and journalist (b. 1899)
2002 – Walter Annenberg, American publisher and diplomat, Ambassador to the United Kingdom (b. 1908)
2004 – Richard Avedon, American photographer (b. 1923)
2013 – Tom Clancy, American author (b. 1947)
Credits include wikipedia and other internet sources