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Protesters Say New York City Moving Homeless Out Of Lucerne Hotel Is Creating A Bigger Problem

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There were tense moments outside Gracie Mansion on Sunday night, as protesters fighting for the homeless started shaking barricades.

They were trying to bypass police to deliver what they called an "eviction letter" to Mayor Bill de Blasio's front door, CBS2's Cory James reported.

It happened hours after a demonstration unfolded in front of the Lucerne Hotel, where 300 men have been staying to safely social distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

MORETransfer Of Homeless Families From Midtown Hotel To Make Room For Men Who Left The Lucerne Temporarily Halted

But officials recently told the homeless they had to leave because neighbors on the Upper West Side threatened to sue the city, complaining of an increase in crime and quality-of-life issues.

"It really upsets me that people who have what we have are not bringing in and opening our arms and embracing people who don't have what we have," neighbor Lisa Heffter said.

Earlier in the day, James visited Carl Schurz Park, where many protesters said the city is creating a bigger problem while trying to solve another.

That problem they believe is moving the homeless from the Lucerne to the Harmonia shelter in Midtown, because they said it would displace the families there.

Video shows the protests in front of the Lucerne on Sunday afternoon. It later turned into a march, with dozens walking close to two miles to Carl Shurz Park, which is home to Gracie Mansion.

Many of the protesters were holding signs, with some reading "Homeless Lives Matter." However, they all believe the mayor should make use of vacant hotel rooms to protect homeless New Yorkers from COVID-19.


James spoke with a man who said he feels like he is being pushed out of the Lucerne and a woman who said her family staying at the Harmonia shelter could soon have no place to go.

"We are human beings. I'm a human being. I'm not a pawn. I'm not cattle," the man said. "I'm out here trying to do what's right and it seems like every time a lot of us start going in the right direction, trying to do what's right, we get pushed back."

MOREMayor De Blasio Defends Decision To Move Homeless Out Of UWS Hotels, Says That Housing Was Never The Long-Term Plan

"I was just given a piece of paper three days ago. It was put in front of my face and they said sign it, and I read it and they said you're being transferred and they don't tell you where you're going, when you're going," Harmonia resident Tiffanie Mondello said.

One Upper West Side resident who did not want to be on camera told James she was in support of homeless people leaving the Lucerne Hotel, saying she felt concerned about her safety with them there.

Right now, everything is on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society on behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless against the city. However, there is no clear answer on how long the transfer of homeless people and families will remain frozen.

"If we were to move people all around the city, what will happen is they won't be safe from COVID-19," Legal Aid Society attorney Josh Goldfein said.

A decision on what will happen will be based on negotiations between both parties.

If that is unsuccessful, a judge has to step in to determine what the city can legally do.

City Council member Helen Rosenthal said she hopes de Blasio will not just listen to Upper West Side residents worried about the homeless in her district.

"It's not too late. I think the mayor should reverse his decision," Rosenthal said.

James reached out to de Blasio's office, but did not immediately hear back. However, the mayor has said before that housing the homeless at the Lucerne was never a long-term plan.

The city said Friday it is going to assess each client's personal needs before relocating them.

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