Judge Temporarily Halts City’s Plan to Put Homeless Shelter on Billionaires’ Row

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A judge temporarily stopped the city’s plan to open a homeless shelter in a former hotel near Billionaires’ Row, which a group of residents have been trying to derail citing fire safety concerns in the property.

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The interim stay was granted Wednesday so a local group—the West 58th Street Coalition—can appeal Judge Alexander Tisch’s decision last month that gave the city the go-ahead for the facility at the former Park Savoy Hotel at 158 West 58th Street.

“This building is a fire waiting to happen,” Les Fischer, a member of the coalition who’s lived on the block for 13 years, said at a press conference Thursday. “I asked the commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services [DHS] to have a heart for these homeless people, don’t put them in a death trap.”

Fischer was joined by Robert Mascali, a former deputy commissioner of DHS, who blasted the city’s decision to put the shelter—which would house 140 homeless people—in the Park Savoy because there’s only one entrance in and out of the property.

“I would never open a shelter in a building like this,” Mascali said. “It’s unconscionable that the city would ever consider this building to be used as a homeless shelter.”

However, DHS said both the New York City Fire Department and the New York City Department of Buildings approved the nine-story building to be used as a shelter. DHS also upgraded the sprinkler system, added more smoke detectors and upgraded room doors to make it safer.

“We remain focused on opening this site as soon as possible so that we can provide high-quality shelter and employment services to hard-working New Yorkers experiencing homelessness as they get back on their feet,” Arianna Fishman, a spokeswoman for DHS, said in a statement. “We are confident that the court will again recognize our vital need for these additional beds and look forward to opening our doors at this location.”

The stay is the latest in a nearly two year battle between locals and the city over the shelter at the Park Savoy Hotel—which backs against the One57 luxury tower that has $100 million condos—as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build 90 new facilities to house the homeless in the five boroughs.

Residents have complained the shelter would cause an increase in crime and lower the value of their homes. DHS said the site would have 24/7 security and a 10 p.m. curfew.

But Fischer said his concerns are solely about fire safety and not NIMBYism. He added he would welcome the shelter if more exits were added to the building and even suggested a different site a nearby at 500 West 57th Street.

“For me, this is all about the fact that this is a fire trap,” he said.

The West 58th Street Coalition filed a lawsuit in 2018 to stop the project—citing safety concerns—but Judge Tisch ruled in favor of the city on April 29, writing the courts leave it up to the city to determine if it is safe.

“These are all aspects for which the city and its agencies are supposed to be given deference,” Tisch wrote in his decision.