“#De Blasio says he’s eyeing wind down of COVID-19 hotel shelters”
August 17, 2020 | 4:40pm
“It’s important to note that as the situation, the health situation has continued to improve, we’re going to start the process of figuring out where we can get homeless individuals back into safe shelter facilities and reduce the reliance on hotels,” Hizzoner told reporters during his daily press briefing.
“Hotels is certainly not where we want to be in general and we’re going to start that process immediately.”
It’s a shift in tone for de Blasio, who told reporters as recently as two weeks ago that New York’s least fortunate would likely remain in hotels for months — until there is a vaccine or more effective treatment for COVID-19.
“We had to get a lot of people out of shelters temporarily into hotels, to space people out and make sure they were safe,” de Blasio said on Aug. 4.
“When this crisis is over — and it’s a matter of months until there’s a vaccine and the crisis is over — then we’re going to bring people back into the shelter system out of those hotels, and a lot of things will start to change. But in the meantime, this is actually about protecting people’s lives and safety.”
Currently, just 1 percent of coronavirus tests in New York City are coming back positive and the number of people in city hospitals continues to decline, suggesting that Gotham has checked the spread of the virus for the time being.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services insisted after Monday’s press conference that de Blasio’s latest remarks did not signal a shift in policy.
“We’re watching our health indicators closely and working with DOHMH to determine when and how clients can be safely relocated back to shelters from the temporary emergency hotel relocation sites, and we’ll inform communities when our City is ready to take that step,” the agency said in a statement.
Close quarters in the city’s congregate shelters made it virtually impossible for hard-up New Yorkers to socially distance as the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March, which ultimately killed more than 23,000 across the five boroughs — including 104 who were homeless.
The outbreak forced an initially hesitant City Hall to find more than 60 hotels with rooms for 10,000 people in a last-ditch effort to slow the spread of the virus, awarding the Hotel Association of New York City a $78 million contract to find the space.
One of those hotels, located on the Upper East Side, is linked to brothers and notorious slumlords Jay and Stuart Podolsky.
At least another three of the hotels were located on the Upper West Side, prompting a flood of complaints from local residents about quality of life issues.
Crime statistics from the NYPD precinct that covers much of the neighborhood shows that robberies are up 9 percent and burglaries are up 70 percent for the first eight months of 2020 compared to last year’s levels. However, most other indexes are down or flat.
The emergency move into hotels followed years of efforts by DHS to replace those programs with new permanent shelters across the city, which advocates say are better able to provide social services.
However, more than 5,500 Big Apple families were still living in hotels in August 2019 as attempts to build and open new shelters were delayed by intense opposition from wealthy and suburban neighborhoods.
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