While she is still undeclared as a mayoral candidate, Maya Wiley, former de Blasio administration official and civil rights activist, is weighing into one of the most divisive debates in the city - the housing of homeless men in hotels on the Upper West Side.
It represented Wiley’s first big stance as a potential candidate.
“We are one community of concern. Though none of the Lucerne are us, we are all New Yorkers, they must stay! We must have public safety that includes their safety,” said Wiley.
Homeless residents were moved to the hotel in late July. Two other nearby hotels have also been occupied by homeless individuals, part of an effort to lessen the density in the shelter system and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
But Upper West Side residents complained, arguing too many homeless New Yorkers were moved into a small square block area too quickly and without notice. They also began documenting more crime in the neighborhood.
“For Maya Wiley to weigh in on the homelessness issue on the Upper West Side, which tends to be a highly participatory district, and series of districts when it comes to municipal elections, I think it’s her way of taking a bold stance,” said Christina Greer, professor at Fordham University.
Adhering to complaints and the threat of a lawsuit from Upper West Side residents about the Lucerne, Mayor de Blasio announced that the nearly 300 residents here would be moved to a hotel in Midtown. But that and all other moves were put on pause after reports that the city was displacing homeless families at the Midtown location to make way for those staying at the Lucerne.
The political hot potato nature of the men’s fate took another turn when City Council Speaker Corey Johnson confirmed a report from over the weekend by our partner, the Queens Daily Eagle, that his office intervened after complaints from the community. The homeless residents were first staying at a hotel in the speaker’s district before being moved to the Lucerne. Although Johnson denies he helped facilitate the move.
“My office has worked to address neighborhood concerns that have come up after so many people had been moved in so quickly. The community Board had some concerns about the selection of that block," Johnson said.
Now that they are out of his district, Johnson, also a potential 2021 mayoral candidate, says he believes they should stay put.
“I do not think moving the men out of the Lucerne is the right thing to do.”
An attorney for the Upper West Side residents who want the men removed from the Lucerne says he is confident the mayor will honor his commitment and move them out by the end of the month. But according to the city, all moves have been put on hold, at least for now.