Homeless shelter hotel opens on Billionaire’s Row, New York

A Manhattan hotel has reopened as a ‘rapid rehousing’ homeless shelter smack bang in the middle of one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in New York City. The homeless shelter hotel was once the Park Savoy, a mid-sized business placed between an apartment block and 24-hour parking, and blends in with the surroundings. However, a large group of its neighbours have been campaigning against it for years.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent trying to keep the Park Savoy rapid rehousing program out of the area. Rich locals have been fighting back against the plans to open the shelter here, saying that there would be crime and “irreparable injuries”. These fears appear to be unfounded.

The shelter opened its doors in early November and is designed to house up to 80 men. It is known as an “employment shelter” meant for those who are seeking employment or who are actively employed, especially in midtown Manhattan. The shelter has been taking in about five new occupants a week since it opened on 8 November, according to a city spokesperson.

The homeless shelter hotel is placed near some of Manhattan’s wealthiest residents as it is steps away from the ‘Billionaire’s Row, a group of extra tall buildings constructed within the last decade. The penthouse of One57, the tower that is directly behind the shelter, was bought by billionaire Michael Dell in 2014 for $100m – the most expensive piece of real estate ever sold in the city at the time.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had said in a 2017 speech that the 90 new shelters slated to be built in the next year would “be in every kind of neighbourhood”. The Park Savoy was due to open in Spring 2018, but a lengthy legal battle began with residents and business owners who formed a group called the West 58th Street Coalition to block the move.

An online petition was created in 2018 against the hotel, calling it a threat with “an enormous impact on our densely populated, narrow, high pedestrian-traffic street”. Suzanne Silverstein, a leader of the coalition, told the New York Times that residents believed that the city was trying to make a statement at their expense.

“[Mayor Bill de Blasio] is not sticking it to billionaires, he’s sticking it to people like myself who work 100 hours a week. We’re not bad people. We’re just trying to get ahead,” she said.

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Written by

Claire Gordon