Upper West Siders have every right to be furious the city has dumped hundreds of hard-case homeless in their midst, and it’s just obscene for the Legal Aid Society to call the residents racist for objecting — and to threaten to sue if the mayor does anything about the situation.
The influx has led to major upticks in indecent exposure, public urination and drug use, overdoses and catcalling — and placed at least 10 registered sex offenders at The Belleclaire, just a block from PS 87’s playground.
Mayor Bill de Blasio emptied out shelters as the pandemic raged, arguing that putting homeless in hotels made social distancing easier. The policy sent hundreds of homeless men, some mentally ill and recovering drug addicts, to three hotels on the Upper West Side owned by two de Blasio supporters.
“It doesn’t feel safe anymore,” nanny Michele McDowall told The Post, reporting a pair of homeless men offered her crack as she wheeled a toddler along Riverside Park.
Employees of eateries struggling to stay afloat say harassing homeless men are driving diners away.
Marjanne Motamedi often donates food to the homeless from her restaurant Cibo e Vino, but says she’s still targeted. “We’ve had a few unpleasant situations, where homeless people will verbally attack and even try to spit at our customers, and there’s nothing you can do,” Motamedi told The Post. “We tried to reason with them, but there is no point as they are either not present mentally or on something, and the police say it’s out of their jurisdiction.”
One night a homeless man grabbed a bottle of wine from her display table and threatened to smash it in a diner’s face; he left — with the bottle — after an employee intervened.
Hundreds of 311 calls brought no action, so worried residents started the West Side Community Organization and raised more than $100,000, enabling them to hire Randy Mastro, a lawyer and Rudy Giuliani-era deputy mayor, to demand solutions.
De Blasio this month vowed, “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.” The residents want a timeline.
Legal Aid, on the other hand, threatens litigation to protect the new status quo. “If @NYCMayor caves to the racist NIMBYism from some residents of the UWS and forces vulnerable NYers from their hotel rooms back to congregate shelters before it is safe to do so, we will see him in court,” the group tweeted last week.
There’s nothing racist in acting when your kids are being offered hard drugs or deranged harassment threatens to kill your small business. No neighborhood in Gotham should be allowed to become an open-air drug-shooting gallery.
In opposing a solution with incendiary charges — rather than, say, suing to get these men housed in facilities where they can get the services they so desperately need — Legal Aid is putting ideology ahead of its actual mission. Donors, take note.
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