New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to construct a homeless shelter in the midst of a ritzy Manhattan neighborhood that is home to many of the city’s wealthiest over the objections of many residents and groups.
The decision to move ahead with the project comes after an unsuccessful legal fight waged by a group of businesses and residents from the neighborhood near Central Part which is dubbed “Billionaire’s Row,” according to the Daily Mail.
A New York state appeals court rejected residents’ and groups’ concerns over the project on Thursday.
The Daily Mail notes that Billionaire’s Row isn’t just a single street or an officially designated area, but rather a region that is referred to by local real estate agents “as an area south of Central Park, between 57th Street and 59th Street from north to south, and stretching from 8th Avenue in the west for eight blocks east to 2nd Avenue.”
Meanwhile, the iconic Trump Tower is located just to the south.
Earlier, de Blasio, a Democrat with socialist leanings, established a program called “Turning the Tide,” which seeks to set up 90 shelters for homeless people throughout the city. One of the sites selected under the program is the old Park Savoy Hotel, which shut down for good in 2018.
De Blasio said that he wants to house 140 men in the hotel’s 70 rooms, the Daily Mail notes, but his plan drew immediate criticism and pushback.
One organization called The West 58th Street Coalition filed suit against New York City in 2018, arguing that the building is a fire hazard and is not well suited to become a homeless shelter.
“This plan was never shared with anyone in our neighborhood, and our input not solicited,” the group said in a Change.org petition. “While we understand the need to shelter the city’s homeless, we believe that the Mayor’s Turning the Tide plan is deeply flawed.”
The group went on to say that the mayor’s plan is just “an expensive band-aid that doesn’t come close to addressing the shortage of affordable housing,” noting the nine-year, $63 million cost, or $50,000 per person that could be spent on better alternatives.
“Putting large groups of men together in shelter situations creates opportunities for conflict and crime, as opposed to an opportunity for men to have a place of their own with privacy and dignity,” the coalition said.
What’s more, the old hotel only has one corridor to enter and exit, the lawsuit added, meaning that should fire break out, first responders would be blocked by escaping residents using the same stairwell. The suit went on to point out that since 1968, New York City’s building code has required at least two ways to get into and out of structures.
To counter that, city officials noted that a grandfather clause built into statutes meant that buildings constructed before that year do not have to meet the requirement.
“A judge dismissed the lawsuit in April 2019, noting that the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy meant the city’s Department of Buildings determined the structure was in compliance with local laws,” the Daily Mail added.
Following the ruling, a spokesman for NYC’s Department of Homeless Services, Isaac McGinn, noted, “We look forward to opening our doors to hardworking neighbors in need at this location as soon as possible, and will continue to work with the community to ensure our clients are embraced and supported as neighbors.”
But an appeals court reinstated the lawsuit in August 2019 and ordered additional hearings to determine if the old hotel is “consistent with general safety and welfare standards.” On Thursday, however, the higher court reversed the decision, saying the lower court exceeded its authority.
The Savoy is located less than a block away from the nation’s most expensive piece of real estate — a penthouse purchased in 2019 by Ken Griffin, a billionaire hedge fund manager, for $238 million, the Daily Mail reported, adding that two more apartments in the property, which was built in 2015, are current for sale at a cost of tens of millions each.
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