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Lucerne Residents Win Stay, Delaying Departure from the Hotel

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Posted on December 3, 2020 at 5:30 pm by West Sider


People painted figures on the ground in front of The Lucerne last week to represent homeless people without safe shelter. Photo by Jeff French Segall.

A judge ruled in favor of homeless men staying at The Lucerne Hotel on 79th Street, once again stopping the city from moving the men to another hotel downtown.

The State Supreme Court issued an interim stay, and a panel of five justices will next decide whether the stay can continue throughout the appeal — which could take several months. “It’s very hard to know” when that will happen, said Michael Hiller, the lawyer representing the residents. The court looks like it will “move expeditiously” but “it’s impossible to know for sure when the decision will come down.”

The more than 200 men were expected to be moved starting next week after a judge ruled for the city in the initial suit. The battle over the shelter has roiled the neighborhood for more than four months, with opponents claiming the city’s decision to move the men had caused a decline in the quality of life nearby.

But men staying at the Lucerne said the rhetoric could often be dehumanizing.

“I hope the city realizes this, that we are human beings,” said Larry Thomas, a plaintiff in the suit who has since found placement in an apartment.

Da Homeless Hero (right), a Lucerne resident who is a plaintiff in the suit, urged the mayor to reconsider.

“We’re begging you to stop this,” he said on a Zoom call after the ruling. “You moved us from place to place because there were people who said we don’t want homeless people here.”

“We have a lot of work to do but we’ve gotten closer to saying we do matter,” he added. “In this time of pandemic, let’s do the right thing.”

“This is so important to an invisible people, a voiceless people, a vulnerable people,” he said.

“Today is a great victory for right over wrong,” said councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

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