300 homeless men to be moved from Upper West Side hotel

Lucerne Hotel
Photo credit Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Some 300 homeless men will soon be moved out of a temporary shelter that sparked a lot of opposition on the Upper West Side this summer.

Messages like “every human deserves love” were written on stars hanging from the scaffolding outside the Lucerne on 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue—a hotel-turned-shelter during the pandemic.

Its 300 residents will now be moved to another hotel in lower Manhattan.

“I think it was the fact that it was an under-equipped hotel versus a properly equipped shelter with a population that had confounding issues of mental illness and chemical addiction,” said Alison Morpurgo, vice president of the West Side Community Organization.

People who live in the neighborhood railed against the shelter when it opened in July.

Morpurgo said there was open drug use, men lying in the street and disturbances in open spaces.

For Morpurgo, it wasn’t necessarily a new shelter that bothered her.

“Hotels are not a good place for people struggling with homelessness, because they are not properly equipped,” she said.

“They were far from their treatment downtown, and so it was really sort of a lose-lose situation for the men in the hotels who weren’t getting treatment,” Morpurgo said.

She said the hotel in lower Manhattan will be better equipped.

The decision to move the men was not without its detractors. The Upper West Side Open Hearts Initiative, a group that supported the shelter, said Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision is the “pinnacle of cowardliness.” They said moving the men will only be more traumatic for them.

Lucerne protest


On Sunday, dozens of protesters were outside the Lucerne, demanding de Blasio reverse his plan to move the residents. They chanted "What do we want? Housing justice! When do we want it? Now!"

“I mean how would you feel knowing that you just being shuffled around like you cattle? How would you feel knowing that you trying to do the right thing and you’re getting blocked every step of the way?” said Larry Thomas, a Project Renewal resident.

Thomas said this will be his fifth move since starting with Project Renewal in April. He said he’s not blaming anyone directly, but he wants to see the program and the city’s handling of homelessness be revamped.

Project Renewal was told the move must happen by Oct. 5.