Homeless men don’t have to move from NYC’s Lucerne Hotel pending appeal case

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Homeless men living at the controversial Upper West Side Lucerne Hotel will be allowed to choose whether or not they want to be relocated to another shelter in the Financial District, an appellate court has ruled.

The city planned to move some 200 homeless men living at the Lucerne to a Radisson hotel downtown. But the relocation has been repeatedly halted as an October lawsuit by downtown residents seeking to stop the plan worked its way through the courts.

A five-judge appellate panel Tuesday unanimously blocked the city from transferring all the homeless men — saying the city is only
“permitted to relocate those residents who voluntarily choose to be moved.”

The ruling by the First Department, Appellate Division came after three Lucerne residents requested the decision to move all the men be put on hold pending an appeal of a lower court’s decision allowing the relocation to go forward.

Michael Hiller, a lawyer for the three Lucerne residents, hailed the move.

“It’s the right decision. It’s a wonderful decision,” he said. “It is a very empowering decision to homeless residents because it basically recognizes them as having the opportunity to make the choice here.”

Theresa Vitug of Downtown New Yorkers — a group of residents and business owners of the Financial District who opposed moving the men to the neighborhood — saw the decision as a victory.

“We are gratified that the city cannot forcibly relocate the men,” she said.

However, Dr. Megan Martin — the president of WestCo, an UWS organization that supported the move — said her group has hoped all the men would transferred downtown.

“From a public health perspective, as New York enters the second wave of COVID-19, and from an addiction medicine perspective, keeping this fraction of the Lucerne population in their current location is a high-risk proposition that worries me as both a physician and an Upper West Side resident,” she said.

“Several men have already died at the Lucerne. They deserved better.”

The City has a moral and legal obligation to provide safe shelter to all who need it,” said a rep with the city Law Department. “The Radisson is better suited to meet the needs of these residents. When all the merits are heard, we believe the court will ultimately agree that this move is an appropriate use of the mayor’s emergency powers.”

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