Watch CBS News

De Blasio's Plan For Midtown Homeless Shelter Draws Close Scrutiny

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to open a homeless shelter on a tiny Midtown street around the corner from billionaire's row, and in the middle of a tourist Mecca has drawn a wealth of opposition.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, the cornerstone of the mayor's homeless policy is to build shelters in the communities where the homeless come from. That's left some on West 58th Street asking the mayor, why here?

"It's being done just to score points with the anti-rich wing of your party," Barry Shain said.

"I think it's crazy. I think he just wants to get to Trump," Leonardo DeVega said. "His son lives across the street, and Trump lives a block away."

To say that people who live and work on West 58th Street are angry about the decision to build a homeless shelter at the Park Savoy Hotel is a gross understatement.

The building is around the corner from billionaire's row, abuts with 1 West 57th Street, one of the poshest addresses in the city, and is on a block filled with families, shops, and eateries.

"This is a tourist area. Can you imagine you are like next door, you have the best hotels in New York City, you destroy that in order to help 150 people," restaurant owner Maria Loi said.

Construction crews are already hard at work trying to convert the building between Sixth and Seventh Avenues into a shelter for 150 homeless men, which the city hopes can move in next month.

Suzanne Silverstein is the president of the West 58th Street Coalition, a group of residents and businesses opposed to opening the facility in the neighborhood. She questions the expense and noted that the city is paying a non-profit group $61-million to run the shelter.

Silverstein said it breaks down to $51,000 a year, per person.

"That's an outrageous use of taxpayer dollars not only is it unfair to taxpayers, that's equivalent to what we pay New York's finest NYPD, or a starting school teacher," she said, "Is there not a better use for that money?"

Suzanne is also fighting for her kids, ages 10 and 12.

"What does this mean for the safety of the people in the neighborhood, especially children?" she asked.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer hosted a meeting Thursday night, so she and community members could demand answers from the city.

"Who amongst you all will assume political responsibility if the neighborhood goes downhill, that's the question," one resident asked.

"I take responsibility. The buck stops with me, and the Department of Homeless services. This is a responsibility we take really seriously," Jackie Bray said.

Brewer added that security is a chief concern.

"That's why I'm saying, 24 hour security, walks around the building, doesn't just stay inside. We want to understand very, very clearly, what is the security plan," she said.

Residents say it seems like the shelter -- which will house what the city calls employed or employable men -- was set in stone before they had a chance to weigh in.

"I think the most disturbing thing is the message that you're too late. A day late and a dollar short," Silverstein said.

CBS2's Jessica Layton took that concern to Brewer.

"There are ways in which a program can be changed based on questions," she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeless services said the agencies will work with the community.

"Every neighborhood across New York City has a part to play in addressing this citywide challenge," he said.

The agency said 56 security cameras have been installed and there will be a 10 p.m. curfew.

The city said the plan is to open the shelter in April or May, but a stop work order has been issued by the Department of Buildings because the company doing construction apparently never got the proper permits.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.