Residents and CB1 sound off on homeless shelter for Fidi

The discussion around a homeless shelter planned for the Radisson Hotel at 52 William continued for nearly three hours on a Zoom meeting watched by 1500 people last week. It was hosted — expertly, I will add — by the CB1 chair and Quality of Life committee chair and attended by the head of the Department of Homeless Services, several reps from Project Renewal and most of our local elected officials.

There has been an enormous amount of confusion and misinformation about the shelter. But by listening in and also reading the official response sent to me from the Department of Social Services (the agency parent for DHS) press office, I think I can say this with confidence: the plan to bring 240 single men from the Lucerne Hotel on 79th Street downtown to the Radisson will move forward within the next two weeks; when the covid emergency precautions end (and no one can or will say when that will be), those men will return to congregate shelters in the East Village and the building will be converted into a permanent shelter for adult families.*

Nothing will happen before CB1 again hosts a meeting with the DHS administrator and the Project Renewal team on Oct. 8 at 6p. On the call last week in addition to CB1 members were representatives from Pace University, the newly formed Downtown NYCers for Safe Streets and Friends of Fidi, the Financial District Neighborhood Association and Open Hearts New York.

In the meeting, the electeds argued that moving the men does them a grave disservice, especially, as Borough President Gale Brewer pointed out, now that inroads had been made with a private non-profit to offer jobs to those men in particular. Westsiders have also started several programs with the residents, including a free store and outdoor classes.

But downtown residents offered an entirely different rationale for not supporting the move, arguing that these men would be hanging out in the neighborhood’s open spaces during the day, many of which — like Fosun Plaza — are used by children. And others noted that putting 240 men in one building will threaten neighbors with physical harm. “I do not support a city action that would increase incidences where I am threatened with physical violence on the street,” said resident Rosa Chang, the president of the 408-unit condo at 20 Pine. “It is inevitable that congregating 235 men with a history of these issues [substance abuse and mental health crises] in a single building without exterior space will increase violent events throughout the neighborhood.”

That did not sit well with the Department of Homeless Service administrator, Joslyn Carter, who argued that “people experiencing homelessness have a right to public spaces too.” She had to often remind viewers that people experiencing homelessness are not necessarily criminals and must be recognized as humans who have personal problems like so many of the rest of us, or people in our own families. Other speakers also reminded watchers that the shelter residents are not the same as those living on the streets.

The issue is fraught, and will not be resolved easily. (And I will note that CB1 chair Tammy Meltzer, sadly, had to remind people to be more civil in the comments, which are recorded as part of the public meeting.) But here is the best I can do to summarize the facts and background to date:

Project Renewal will run a program at the Radisson for the 240 men from the Lucerne, and provide their usual support services, including health care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and job search programs. Carter said the original plan to move people out of denser congregate shelters when the coronavirus struck was done in a hurry, and the agency is now trying to redistribute those temporary hotel shelters around the city. The shelter is for single adults, none of whom are registered sex offenders.

The plan now is to move them the week of Oct. 19.

Project Renewal said there will be 50 full-time staff people spread across three shifts as well as 25 security people in any one shift. At least two of the security guards would be posted outside the building, doing block patrols. There is no requirement that clients leave the building during the day.

When the emergency plans are lifted, the Radisson will become a permanent “Turning the Tide” shelter — the 74th in the city but the first in CD1. The operator has not yet been determined. This location would be the first-ever traditional shelter in this community, according to DSS and would accommodate adult families.

*Adult families, for example, could be young or elderly couples; a young person supporting an aging parent; or an older parent supporting an older child with disabilities.

Many people on the call seemed to welcome a family shelter — one that accepts children — but Carter noted that the Radisson does not have kitchens and therefore cannot accommodate families and as a system, there is not a need for family shelters.

The department would not give a date, but said, “our actions will be guided by the science and data in determining when it is safe to return to congregate shelters, including closely monitoring health indicators with health experts at the New York City Health Department. We will continue to evaluate all factors/facts as our city works to reopen while ensuring pandemic rates remain low.”

When the coronavirus hit, DSS moved 10,000 of the city’s 54,000 people experiencing homelessness into hotels; now the city is trying to “dedensify” those hotels by distributing the locations around the city. Carter said that downtown has no permanent shelters but does have two temporary hotels being used for this purpose.

The press office gave me even more specific numbers: the only shelters currently in CD1 are the temporary commercial hotels which house a total of 300 people at 6 Water St. and one other address that I could not glean. Tammy Meltzer said the board does not receive many complaints about either of those shelters.

Yet there are 500 people experiencing homelessness right now who come from CD1, including families, and those people are instead being housed in shelters elsewhere in the city. (When I was on Community Board 4 in the ’90s and ’00s, it was our official policy to at the very least take care of our own residents, tracking them by zip code. The idea is that way people are closer to the neighborhood they call home and to their support networks, such as schools.)

From DSS: “In this neighborhood (Manhattan Community District 1), there are currently no traditional shelters available to serve individuals from this community who may fall on hard times and experience homelessness. The only existing shelter capacity in this community are commercial hotel locations, which currently serve nearly 300 New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, but which we have committed to phasing out altogether as part of our Turning the Tide plan.”

Once the temporary shelters in commercial hotels close, there will be no residences for the homeless in the district. But the permanent residence at 52 William will give priority to individuals from CD1.



  1. there seems to be a lot of cherry picking of numbers to suit putting these men here. but the fact is, the uws felt the need, and succeeded in, having them moved- but what isnt addressed is how our local officials tried to sneak this move here without any community feedback. that alone has every local to be suspicious and demand answers. theres a reason they didnt follow protocol and just tried to jam it in here. simply painting locals as nimby and without hearts doesnt accomplish much, and seems like finger pointing from those that were being dishonest.

  2. “ Many people on the call seemed to welcome a family shelter — one that accepts children — but Carter noted that the Radisson does not have kitchens and therefore cannot accommodate “

    So, they chose a building and overlooked a basic necessity for families? There’s more to the plan than what people are led to believe.

    This need to house homeless men with addiction and mental issues, across Manhattan is an awful idea / practice. Spread out to upstate with open spaces and nature, please.

  3. I was on that call last week. The community was blindsided by the Mayor. They are suppose to give at least 30 to discuss with the community board and did not. The community has enough homeless in hotels downtown. They crime downtown is very high. This article is not giving all the details of the discussion.

  4. DeBlasio continues his crusade to destroy downtown New York as Margaret Chin stands idly by and cheers. First there was the Chinatown/Tribeca Mega Prison tower, then they try to sneak in in the homeless that are being moving only because the City was being sued and now he wants to rezone SOHO & NOHO to build skyscrapers to add another 3,200 apartments. DeBlasio doesn’t care and is the worst Mayor.

  5. To report correctly on this, it should be noted…
    1. Why is the upper west side suing the city to move them? An answer to this basic question was not given, as far as I heard on the 2 hour call. If they were behaving well, this, I’m assuming, would not be the case. Also they have apparently private donations available to them on the upper west side which they will not downtown. So again, why the move? My friend who lives in the upper west side stated she has seen these individuals having sex outside the hotel and other acts not deemed normal in a public place.

    2. Also, if all of these 235 men are just homeless and require housing then why is there a need for 25 security guards in any one shift—seems alarming, no?

    3. Lastly, there has been no thought from the city as to where these men will congregate…with 11 schools within 1 mile and 3 on the same block and Fosun Plaza across the street where kids often congregate, it seems like a basic question. They advised there are no sex offenders on the call but Jocelyn seemed to glaze over the topic.

  6. What was not addressed in the meeting was the fact that there must be a large bus/van/truck outside the facility 24/7 to take any resident to the hospital for emergency treatment. There is no space on William St for such a structure. Our deliveries will be disrupted, firetrucks and ambulances that need egress on William will have difficulty getting down the street. What disturbs me are two points:
    1. These homeless people have been bounced from one location to another. It’s not in their best interest and disturbs any type of rehab they might be involved with. HAS ANYONE CONTACTED THE ACLU ABOUT THIS???? Since DiBlasio has taken it upon himself to once again shuffle homeless people unnecesarily (remember the ‘beautiful homes’ in Jersey he sent families to that were uninhabitable????), someone should contact the ACLU and have them fight DiBlasio’s rouge actions against the homeless.
    2. Since the subways have been emptied overnight, the homeless that normally sleep there have been out on the streets. There are 2 men in particular, less than 50ft from the door of the Radisson who sleep stretched out on Wall St and also William St like the sidewalk is a queen-sized bed. If DiBlasio cannot place the people already on the street and manage this, how will we manage another 200+?

  7. another meeting tonight with CB1
    zoom details are in here and you need to pre register

  8. Crime and the homeless situation downtown is disgusting. You can no longer walk on Fulton Street, unless you are willing to jump over bodies. Pedestrians have to walk in the street. The Mayor is a few short blocks away. Is he blind?

  9. I agree with the good points many have made on this post.

    However, i suggest we need to do more than just vent on this site. I have heard of lawsuits being prepared – we should look to contribute to these efforts to protect our neighborhood.

    Similarly, if we can contact our electeds expressing our unhappiness. Others may have better ideas.

    I am ready to contribute $.