On Monday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Alexander Tisch ruled that city officials may build a homeless shelter in the affluent neighborhood known as “Billionaire’s Row.”
As you might expect, the locals are unhappy with the decision. The West 58th Street Coalition, a group made up of residents and local officials, have claimed that the shelter will increase crime in their area — and that the building chosen is a dangerous fire hazard.
“The City has embarked on a reckless plan and hedging their bets hoping that there won’t be a fire at the Park Savoy,” the one-percenters wrote on Facebook. “Are you willing as decision makers and stakeholders to take that chance with even one life?”
Despite the moralizing tone, another pesky concern keeps coming up: that the presence of homeless people will cause residents to “face un-quantifiable economic harm to the value of their property.”
In a December 12th ruling, Tisch dismissed the complaints. “While safety issues constitute an important concern, the shelter has been issued a temporary certificate of occupancy and is presumably safe to open,” he wrote. “Aside from the safety issues, petitioners’ alleged harm regarding loitering and property values is speculative and does not form a sufficient basis for granting a preliminary injunction.”
Soon after, however, First Department Appellate Judge Jeffrey Oing introduced a temporary delay in proceedings to investigate any potential concerns. Others, however, remained skeptical. “We believe the lower court was correct in denying the injunction and once the appeals panel gets a full briefing that decision will stand,” a spokesman for the city’s Law Department said in a statement.
That is precisely what happened. After investigating the matter, Tisch confirmed that the safety issues raised “are all aspects for which the City and its agencies are supposed to be given deference.”
And since the city has granted the potential shelter a temporary certificate of occupancy, Tisch said it “demonstrates to the Court that the building is presumably safe and in compliance with applicable laws.” The fact that the coalition’s claim that the neighborhood already had its “fair share” of homeless shelters was “without merit.”
Still, the fight continues. Randy Mastro, The West 58th Street Coalition’s lawyer, said it was “disappointed in today’s decision and plans to pursue an immediate appeal.”
“This unsafe building should not be permitted to operate as a homeless shelter,” Mastro said. “Placing the homeless in this building puts their lives at risk, as well as the lives of staff, neighbors and firefighters responding there.”
Meanwhile, Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks asserted that “we will begin serving our neighbors in need at this location as soon as possible,” calling the ruling “a win for hard-working New Yorkers experiencing homelessness who will have the opportunity to get back on their feet at a high-quality, employment shelter.”
The homeless shelter is a situation directly against the elite One57 building, which hosts a condo owned by Dell founder Michael Dell, worth $100 million — the city’s most expensive property when it was purchased in 2014.