We are compassionate New Yorkers with deep concerns regarding the plans to convert the Park Savoy Hotel at 158 West 58th Street into an all-men’s transitional homeless shelter.
The Threat: An enormous impact on our densely populated, narrow, high pedestrian-traffic street:
- We are a primarily residential neighborhood of both renters and homeowners. We are also a central destination for New York City tourism.
- The plan brings 140 single, homeless men including recently released parolees to the West 50’s area.
- According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homeless men have much higher rates of serious mental illness, addiction disorders, and other severe health problems. In addition, the city admits that some of these men will have criminal records.
- Public Safety: It has been well documented in published reports that areas that border on homeless shelters for men have many problems with loitering, drug use, and other criminal activities.
WAIT! Don’t we want to help the homeless??
Yes! Of course, we do – BUT! – The fact that this plan was never shared with anyone in our neighborhood, and our input not solicited, before work started is a story we’re hearing in many other New York City neighborhoods. While we understand the need to shelter the city’s homeless, we believe that the Mayor’s Turning the Tide plan is deeply flawed. We believe that the mayor’s shelter plan is an expensive band-aid, that doesn’t come close to addressing the shortage of affordable housing. The billions that this administration is planning to spend in the next 5 years should be focused on real housing for the homeless, not shelters, like the proposed Park Savoy, that are housing 2-3 to a room. Putting large groups of men together in shelter situations creates opportunities for conflict and crime, as opposed to an opportunity for men to have a place of their own with privacy and dignity.
What kind of scale are we talking about?
How Many: It is proposed that 140 homeless men will become new residents of the Park Savoy’s 70 rooms.
The Cost: $63 Million over 9 years, $50,000 per person, per year
Is that more expensive than usual?
Answer: Yes. 38% more than usual (annual average per person is $36,300 according to the MMR) for a total spend of $18 Million over the city average for homeless shelters. For the $50,000 per person, per year contract at the Park Savoy, a homeless man could have his own apartment, living in the neighborhood where he came from, supported by family and his community. This shelter is being placed at the Park Savoy, at exorbitant cost, so that the mayor can make a political statement, while not doing what is best for the potential inhabitants.
What kind of notice of this project was given to you by the City of New York or Department of Homeless Services?
Answer: None. We found out because the information was leaked to a resident of the neighborhood. Our elected officials and local police precinct were also kept in the dark. Further, major construction work has been done on the Park Savoy without permits. There were 33 reports to 311 of this work being done, and finally, when Marcia Kramer of CBS news covered the story, the NYCDOB issued a stop work order. The order is still in place.
Has the city done their due diligence, through environmental studies, to understand the impact to the neighborhood?
Answer: Every major housing and commercial project in New York City undergoes a series of environmental and other impact studies (ULURP). This city project, and other shelters like it, where the city does not directly own or lease the space, are exceptions. As residents of this neighborhood, our West 58th Street Coalition is forced to conduct a study on our own. Residents of NYC should demand that this ULURP policy change, and that the city conducts environmental studies prior to any shelter location being approved.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to shelter New York city’s 65,000 homeless. But so far, he’s done nothing more than create confusion, underserve the city’s homeless population, explode the city budget and make hotel property owners rich. All this while leaving New York City residents and the city council with more questions than answers. While temporary hotel shelters continue to spring up around the city with little prior notice to the people who live in these neighborhoods, the Mayor and the Department of Homeless services is burning through money with little to show for it.
The Mayor’s plan to open 90 homeless shelters in the next 5 years does not address the root cause of the problem, shortage of affordable housing. The Mayor’s plan does not do nearly enough to address this issue and instead plans to drop shelters in neighborhoods all over the city, with zero partnership on the part of the communities impacted and worse prospects for the homeless ever breaking out of the cycle of homelessness.
As citizens of New York City, we demand to know:
- What exactly is the plan? What is the next step for New York’s homeless after they have been placed in one of these transitional shelters?
- What is the cost? Is the cost reasonable? is it practical? What is the cost-to-result ratio? Why is funding not focused on permanent, affordable housing?
- Where is the oversight? What is the role of city council members expected to represent their neighborhoods? What about the safety of the residents of the neighborhood?
- Why isn’t the Mayor being more open about how this plan is run? Where is the discussion with the neighborhoods expected to host these shelters? Where are the hearings? Why aren’t more homeless advocates being consulted?