Hotel Lucerne on Upper West Side converts to homeless shelter

(NEW YORK POST) Steve Cuozzo, July 29, 2020

Normally live-and-let-live Upper West Siders are freaked out that the city’s Department of Homeless Services converted a third large neighborhood hotel into a “temporary” homeless shelter – without even warning them first.

The Hotel Lucerne at 201 W. 79th St. on Monday began welcoming the first of nearly 300 homeless men, many of them methadone users and “recovering” alcoholics. School buses dropped off the men and their makeshift bags at the hotel, whose website recently touted the inn as a “sophisticated” venue “imbued with European-inspired architectural charm and modern amenities.”

Dorota Brosen, who lives across the street from the previously converted Belleclaire on West 77th Street, watched the Lucerne move-in and warned, “I see what goes on from my window. There’s drinking, smoking and sleeping on the sidewalk. People are afraid to walk past.”

The Lucerne is one of 140 hotels citywide that DHS tapped since the pandemic broke out to take in the homeless, who are considered at greater risk for COVID-19 infection if they remain in city-run shelters. Some 13,500 single adults are now being put up in hotels.

It’s a boon to beleaguered hotel owners who had struggled even before the pandemic due to a glut of rooms. But although FEMA is supposedly paying the city 75 percent of the cost to house homeless in hotels during the pandemic, the program’s economics are mostly a mystery.