Manhattan Billionaires’ Row homeless shelter opens after years-long legal battle

This text was originally published on by THE CITY

After 4 years and a number of other court docket battles, a residence for 140 homeless males quietly opened, steps from among the priciest actual property in Manhattan.

The West 58th Road shelter is positioned within the former Park Savoy Resort, subsequent door to an entrance of the 1,000-foot-high One57, one in all a number of supertall buildings on so-called Billionaires’ Row.

The shelter opened Friday, the Division of Homeless Companies mentioned, greater than 4 years after town first submitted plans to the state in August 2017 — and greater than three years after neighbors sued to dam the power. Foes claimed the constructing was unsafe, however New York’s highest court docket ruled against the group in Might.

DHS Commissioner Steve Banks mentioned, to his information, it was “the longest and the most well-funded litigation” in opposition to a shelter within the 5 boroughs.

“Not every shelter opening results in a court challenge, but where there have been court challenges, we’ve prevailed in every one,” he instructed THE CITY. 

Simply 5 males have moved on this week, and some might be shifting in every week till the shelter is full, officers mentioned.

All Quiet on West 58th

The block was quiet on Monday afternoon, three days after the power, run by shelter operator Westhab, formally welcomed its first residents. 

All that indicated the brand new addition to the neighborhood was a small white sheet of paper taped within the entrance window that learn “Welcome to the Park Savoy rapid re-housing program.”

The West 58th Road Coalition, the group that waged the lengthy legal struggle in opposition to the shelter, spent at the least $287,000 to rent lobbyists to assist their trigger, metropolis lobbying data present.

Opponents additionally spent at the least $100,000 on billboards in Iowa protesting Mayor Invoice de Blasio as he traveled within the state throughout his short-lived 2019 presidential marketing campaign.

The legal staff for the West 58th Road group included Guiliani-era deputy mayor Randy Mastro, who lobbied the governor’s workplace and different state officers to not grant the shelter needed approvals to open, THE CITY previously reported.

Mastro additionally represented a bunch of Higher West Aspect residents who had sued town to take away homeless males from the Lucerne Resort on West 79th Road, which had become an emergency shelter within the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the road from the shelter, Robin Siskin, a West 58th Road resident of 30 years, mentioned she gave $25 to the legal fund for the Coalition and was stunned to listen to the shelter had opened.

The final she had heard about it was in a Nov. 4 e mail she’d acquired from the West 58th Road Coalition that mentioned the group had deliberate a breakfast assembly with mayor-elect Eric Adams on Nov. 15.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to meet with him and express our concerns about the Savoy and the homeless crisis in general,” she mentioned. “There’s a huge homeless crisis in New York, but there are other ways of solving it.”

Adams’ spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to an inquiry from THE CITY a couple of assembly with the group.

Inquiries to Michael Fischer, chief of the West 58th Road Coalition, weren’t returned Monday.

Seeking to Be ‘A Good Neighbor’

Catherine Trapani, government director of the advocacy group Homeless Companies United, of which Westhab is a member, mentioned she is glad the “space will get to be used by people who need it.” She mirrored “how shameful it is” that the constructing went unused for 4 years.

“We went through an entire pandemic, and record high [numbers] of single adults in the shelter system, and this sat empty,” she mentioned of the West 58th Road constructing.

Jim Coughlin, Westhab’s chief working officer, mentioned the group is trying ahead to “being a good neighbor and working collaboratively with local residents and businesses” in addition to giving job coaching and housing placement providers “for every individual that comes through our doors.”

Banks mentioned, in his expertise on the homeless providers company and earlier than that as an lawyer for the Legal Assist Society for a few years, neighbors of homeless shelters usually have “lots of concerns” forward of a gap, however these “melt away” after residents truly transfer in.

“I would urge everyone to focus on the human beings who need a roof over their head, and to help us support them,” he mentioned.

‘Need a Place to Go’

The West 58th Road residence is opening as town completes a significant shift to maneuver hundreds of individuals from business lodges — opened mostly in Midtown as emergency housing on the top of the pandemic — again to extra conventional, “congregate” shelters the place residents sleep a number of individuals to a room.

The newest of these strikes came about on the finish of September, a spokesperson for DHS mentioned. There are solely two remaining lodges in use as COVID-19 shelters citywide, one in Manhattan and one in Queens, each used on an emergency foundation for quarantine and isolation. 

No business lodges from the pandemic emergency batch are at present working as shelters in Manhattan Group District 5, which encompasses Midtown and the West 58th Road location. 

Total, the overall variety of individuals within the metropolis’s shelter system has dropped because the top of the pandemic, from over 60,000 in April 2020 to only over 46,000 now, shelter census information reveals. The shelter inhabitants beforehand peaked at about 61,000 in January 2019.

The vast majority of the shelter inhabitants are households, based on the Coalition for the Homeless, and nearly 1 out of 10 public faculty youngsters reside in unstable or short-term housing.

Nonetheless, single grownup males make up a couple of third of the shelter system, lots of whom are previously incarcerated and have distinctive challenges to discovering a spot to reside, Trapani mentioned. Their numbers have returned to 2019 ranges — with 16,863 in DHS shelter beds on Friday evening — after a pandemic excessive of greater than 18,500. 

“This is the population that needs us the most right now,” Trapani mentioned. “Of course, we want permanent housing solutions, and we’re going to continue to work towards that, but in the meantime, these guys need a place to go.”

THE CITY is an impartial, nonprofit information outlet devoted to hard-hitting reporting that serves the individuals of New York.

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