No Respite for West 30s Residents, After Hundreds Housed in Hotels

(CHELSEA COMMUNITY NEWS) Winnie McCroy, November 14, 2020

With its many shelters providing resources for at-risk individuals, Midtown Manhattan has long been welcoming to the unhoused. But when the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) compensated for the COVID-19 complications of existing facilities by relocating hundreds of people under their care onto two blocks in the upper West 30s, residents were shocked, then worried, then outraged.

Placed among them in three hotels on W. 36th and 37th Sts. normally occupied by tourists—without consultation, let alone consent—the May 2020 arrival of 800+ men and women with no on-site recreational facilities or social/medical supportive services caused egregious quality-of-life issues. Now, locals and their elected officials are putting their foot down and saying, “Enough is enough.”

But it’s hardly NIMBY-ism (Not in My Backyard). The demand that DHS relocate a third of these men into another shelter comes with the stipulation that their new destination will remain within the confines of Manhattan Community District 4 (MCD4).

“We are not a neighborhood that says ‘No,’ ” said Manhattan Community Board 4 (CB4) Housing, Health, & Human Services (HHHS) Committee Co-Chair Joe Restuccia, in a Sept. 17 HHHS meeting via Zoom call. “We are not a NIMBY neighborhood. That’s never who we have been. However, the concentration and degree and number of people who need serious social services—that is simply not being managed well… leading to a lack of public safety on the streets.”

Lowell Kern, Chair of CB4, said that while they didn’t want to give these individuals the boot, they did need to thin them out a bit, for their own safety as well as that of nearby residents—something CB4 has been asking DHS to do all summer long.

“We were disappointed that DHS never consulted with us in the first place on the use of these hotels, and the problem is that there is too heavy a concentration on the blocks of 36th and 37th Street,” Kern told Chelsea Community News. “So, we asked DHS to work with us to relocate one of the hotel shelters somewhere else within our district. This is not CB4 trying to move homeless people out of our communities. This particular location is a problem because there are too many people there. Three hotels in one block being used as homeless shelters is more than we can handle… and we’d like to move them to another location within our district that would be better for everyone.”

Kern teamed up with Manhattan Borough (BP) President Gale Brewer, New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, and New York State Senator Robert Jackson to send Commissioner Steven Banks, of the NYC Department of Social Services [comprised of DHS and the NYC Human Resources Administration], a four-page request listing DHS actions that would alleviate the problems surrounding temporary shelters in this Midtown corridor. Among the letters goals: the restoration of residents’ quality of life; better coordination with DHS for the operation of local hotel shelters; and a commitment to address the realities of homelessness within the district.

Source: Chelsea Community News