These are the political hypocrites behind NYC’s homeless scandal

Uptown, downtown, all around the town — nobody wants a homeless shelter full of former drug addicts in their front yards. But to woker-than-thou hypocrites, homeless shelters in somebody else’s front yards are just fine.

An uncivil war has convulsed the Upper West Side since last summer, when the city, without advance notice, moved nearly 300 homeless men, most of them recovering addicts and some with criminal records, into the once-respectable Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street, amidst apartment buildings filled with middle-class families.

Most of the neighborhood’s lifelong liberals were traumatized. They were accused by a relative few other locals of betraying Upper West Side ideals of rescuing the capitalism-oppressed poor or of outright racism (many Lucerne residents are black). There have been lawsuits and name-calling on both sides.

But it’s standard form in New York City for agents of neighborhood ruination to live distant from the neighborhoods they would ruin. In fact, the most prominent public figures who think a permanent homeless enclave at the Lucerne is a great idea live nowhere near the Lucerne.

Public Hypocrite No. 1 is city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who wants the jobless, troubled, sometimes-violent men to remain at the hotel. Never mind howls of protest from neighbors and business owners who’ve suffered vandalism, robberies, aggressive panhandling and sexual taunts and who fear for the safety of their kids who attend nearby schools.

Stringer lives comfortably removed on Broad Street in lower Manhattan, many miles south. But ironically, the tables might soon turn on him. Under pressure by horrified Upper West Siders threatening a lawsuit, Mayor de Blasio hopes to relocate the Lucerne’s unwelcome residents to a former Radisson Hotel on William Street starting tomorrow. It’s two blocks from Stringer’s home. The hotel shelters — a poor substitute for a sound homeless-care policy — are multiplying so fast, it’s hard to stay out of their way.

Public Hypocrite No. 2 is City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who approved of the city’s surprise Lucerne colonization and disparages those who object to it. But despite calling herself a “proud Upper West Side liberal,” she and her husband sold their West 87th Street condo two years ago for a whopping $4.5 million, according to city records. She now dwells far from the Lucerne and two other nearby homeless hotels, in the safer confines of the nearly all-white Riverside South waterfront complex in the West 60s, which has been likened to a gated community and is “Upper West Side” in name only.

“And Helen has the nerve to lecture us,” said a woman who lives with her family in a building close to the Lucerne.

Public Hypocrite No. 3 is Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who’s also on board with the Lucerne takeover. Unlike Rosenthal, Brewer remains a true Upper West Sider — but her home on West 95th Street near Central Park is a comfortable near-mile away from the Lucerne.

The war erupted in July when the Department of Homeless Services and its nonprofit contractor Project Renewal moved the homeless men from city shelters into the Lucerne, supposedly to protect them from COVID-19 risk at the shelters. But the step reeked of the de Blasio administration’s unconcealed contempt for middle-class New Yorkers whom it calls “rich.”

After a July 27 Post article about the Lucerne ignited neighborhood outrage, a Facebook page called Upper West Siders for Safer Streets quickly drew 15,000 members. Soon after, an anti-shelter group calling itself the West Side Community Organization was formed and hired a powerful lawyer, former mayoral aide Randy Mastro. The group raised over $100,000 and threatened to sue the city.

But — only on the Upper West Side, kids — a counter-group called UWS Open Hearts, cheered on by Rosenthal, formed to advocate for keeping the homeless at the Lucerne. They denounced “inflammatory, dehumanizing rhetoric” by those who disagreed. Gothamist.com cherry-picked a handful of racist comments from among thousands of Facebook page postings.

The campaign to tar anyone who’s alarmed by the Lucerne situation infuriates the vast majority of neighborhood residents. Don Evans, a restaurant consultant and chairman of the annual Taste of the Upper West Side food event, said that Stringer and Rosenthal “completely misread or ignored the sentiment of the Upper West Side. I’m a progressive, BlackLives-Matter Democrat. But this was a bad public policy decision.”

When the city later said it would move Lucerne residents to the downtown Radisson, it set off a FiDi firestorm exactly parallel to the one on the Upper West Side. Furious locals — both residents and business owners — launched a social media campaign, formed a group called Downtown New Yorkers and hired their own powerful lawyers. On Wednesday, they sued the city to prevent de Blasio from moving some 240 homeless men from the Lucerne to the old Radisson space.

And guess what? A group called Friends of FiDi, similar to Open Hearts, sprang up to oppose them.

The mirror-image, uptown-downtown struggles reflect one large truth.

People who are homeless due to poverty, family dysfunction or mental illness are deserving of compassion and humane care. It’s government’s responsibility to provide it. But ducking its duty by dumping addicts and criminals is a terrible, evil act, uptown or downtown.

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