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Legal Aid threatens lawsuit if city moves homeless out of hotels

August 29, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Two weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that with the COVID-19 pandemic improving in New York City, he was planning to end the practice of placing homeless New Yorkers into hotels.

The Legal Aid Society threatened that if the mayor shutters the program, it will sue.

“These hotel rooms have afforded some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers safe refuge from exposure to COVID-19 in the city’s saturated shelter system, where at least 96 people have already died from contracting the virus,” said Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at the Legal Aid Society.

“The public health crisis is not over, and moving people experiencing homelessness back into overcrowded shelters could spark a second wave of COVID-19, putting lives at needless risk,” Goldiner continued. “The COVID-19 mortality rate for single adults in shelter is in fact 79 percent higher than it is for the New York City population as a whole, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.”

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The city started housing homeless New Yorkers in hotels to ease overcrowding that was preventing social distancing in shelters.

“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 during a press conference 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.”

More recently, the New York Post has written several articles quoting Upper West Side residents. A group of restaurants are reportedly considering legal action to boot people staying in hotels rather than shelters.

“There is currently no scientific evidence to support moving people from hotel rooms to congregate facilities,” Goldiner said. “The mayor is clearly only responding to threats of litigation from a vocal group of well-resourced community members of the Upper West Side. Should the mayor make the wrongheaded and cruel decision to force our clients from safety, we will immediately file a temporary restraining order in court on their behalf.”

An estimated 18,000 single adults sleep in Department of Homeless Services shelters each day, according to the Legal Aid Society.

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  1. File your lawsuits. We want them out of our neighborhoods and hotels. They are causing sanitation and drug related issues throughout the neighborhood… stop using the la remix as an excuse. The infection rate is super low, so figure it out.

  2. Many of us are extremely distressed and outraged to hear that the city is caving in to the NIMBY outcry to remove men experiencing homelessness from the hotels. I hope the Legal Aid Society will indeed file a restraining order to stop this cruel action would violate the Federal Fair Housing Act and city and state human rights laws.