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Lucerne Hotel On Upper West Side Turns Into Temporary Homeless Shelter, Prompting Concern Among 'Petrified' Neighbors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –  Hundreds of people have been moved from homeless shelters to an Upper West Side hotel.

Neighbors say they were barely given notice and now they are upset.

Bused in from Downtown, 283 men who are experiencing homelessness arrived at their new Upper West Side address: The Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street.

The Lucerne is the latest luxury hotel to become a temporary homeless shelter.

Some neighbors told CBS2's Nick Caloway they were angry. Others said they were scared.


"I'm worried about whether there are going to be a lot of homeless men just hanging around on the street," said neighbor Jamie Berg.

"I have no problem taking care of these people, OK? I have no problem. But to put them at my back door, I am petrified. I am really petrified," a neighbor named Carolee said.

Neighbors say they weren't told about the decision until late last week. They had no input and no choice.

"It's not right that we didn't have any say, that they were just put here," said Robert Montano.

"Well as soon as I knew, they knew," said City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

Rosenthal said the city's shelters are too crowded, often sleeping two dozen people in a room. So the city has been emptying its shelters, placing thousands of people in hotels to reduce the spread of the virus.

"The most important thing is that the people here have access to the treatment that they need. These are people with mental health issues, with addiction issues," Rosenthal said.

It's those issues that make neighbors nervous.  The men are coming from a pair of East Village shelters. Neighbors there have noticed homeless encampments pop up block after block during the pandemic, worsening as the weather turned warm.

People who live near the Lucerne don't want the same thing to happen there.

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"There's a children's school, which is about a block and a half away from here. How is that happening? So I have concerns," Montano said.

As to how long the hotels will be used as temporary shelters, it's open ended because the pandemic is open ended.

Caloway called the Lucerne, they said they aren't taking reservations until December, at least.

It costs an average $174 a night to put up a homeless person in a hotel in the city. Right now, there are more than 13,000 people sheltered in hotels as a result of this pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the Lucerne Hotel went for nearly $400 a night.

The bill will go to FEMA, but the decision came from City Hall.

The nonprofit Project Renewal said the newly transplanted Upper West Siders will have daily wellness checks, mask requirements and there will be 20 security guards on each shift.

Caloway asked Mayor Bill de Blasio's office why neighbors weren't notified until late last week. He was told to contact the office of homeless services.

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