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A group of Lower East Siders want to stop the city from moving 70 homeless men into a local hotel — claiming the packed quarters that would exist there could spread the coronavirus “like wildfire,” new court papers show.
The group of three local landlords, two residents and a restaurant bar claim the city has kept the plan from them, and they were only able to piece it together through word of mouth after the landlord of the Blue Moon Hotel at 100 Orchard St. said he was going to lease the building to the city for a homeless shelter, according to a new Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.
The group argues the 22-room converted former tenement building would force at least three of these unrelated homeless men to live together in each room, “thus creating a dangerous situation in which COVID-19 could spread like wildfire,” the court papers allege.
The city, along with nonprofit Not On My Watch, have been negotiating a lease that was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, the court documents say.
The city is bypassing the normal review process under special pandemic rules and says it will be a temporary shelter with a six-month term — but the lease can be renewed monthly for up to nine years, the court papers claim.
NOMW’s website and the lease make it “abundantly clear that respondents have already made the decision to use the hotel as a permanent shelter and that the lease is structured in a way to allow the placement of a homeless shelter without any of the necessary conditions’ precedent having to be followed,” the court documents charge.
Further, the suit says the neighborhood is already densely packed with bars, clubs and restaurants that are even more crowded than normal as traffic is closed off at certain times of day to allow for outdoor dining.
And tourists and children come weekly by the hundreds to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which is across from the hotel.
The area is already plagued with drug and alcohol use — and the plaintiffs are concerned some of the homeless men could suffer from substance addictions, the court papers say.
“Petitioners have serious concerns that respondents’ decision to place these
individuals in an area that is ripe with drugs and alcohol will create a situation that
is dangerous for both the shelter residents and the area as whole,” the court filing claims.
All of these factors could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, and contribute to crime, loitering and overcrowding that already exists in the neighborhood, they argue.
The Blue Moon Hotel is located in an area that already has 17 other homeless shelters, or 2.9 percent of the city’s homeless population — the fourth-highest in Manhattan, the court documents claim.
The suit is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to block the shelter from opening.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services is slated to present the homeless shelter plan to Community Board 3, where the hotel is located, on Thursday.
This is just the latest battle by a community over the city using hotels to house homeless people amid the pandemic.
A plan to move a group of roughly 200 homeless men from the Upper West Side Lucerne Hotel Shelter to a Financial District hotel has been at the center of a hotly contested legal battle.
The relocation is currently on hold while FiDi residents appeal a decision allowing it to go forward.
The city, the DHS and NOMW did not immediately return requests for comment on the new suit.
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks
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