A homeless shelter is coming to Billionaires’ Row
The rich and famous who inhabit Gotham’s storied “Billionaires’ Row” will soon have some less well-heeled neighbors following the city’s approval of a 140-bed homeless shelter near Columbus Circle.
The shelter will be located in the former Park Savoy Hotel on West 58th Street, a building right next door to the rear entrance of One57, one of the sleek new towers springing up in Manhattan to serve the ultra-wealthy.
Some of the world’s fattest cats have apartments in the half-dozen new skyscrapers built along a stretch of Manhattan’s 57th Street known as Billionaires’ Row.
Unit owners at One57 include billionaire Michael Dell, who set a record for the most expensive home ever sold in the Big Apple when he paid $100 million for his apartment in 2014.
The shelter’s location in the posh neighborhood fulfilled a campaign promise by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who won office by assailing income inequality and public policies tilted to favor the wealthy.
But the proposed shelter, steps from Central Park, has been met with howls of outrage from some people who live on the surrounding blocks, many of whom are not rich.
At a recent meeting about the project, angry residents, shopkeepers and restaurant owners booed and whined, “Not in this neighborhood!”
“We’re completely baffled by how this shelter was planned,” complained Suzanne Silverstein, president of the West 58th Street Coalition, which is fighting the hotel-to-shelter conversion.
Opponents say the homeless men could be a security risk for both pricey apartment owners and residents of older, rent-controlled buildings on West 58th Street, whose sidewalks are crowded with New Yorkers and tourists, baby carriages and dogs.
“West 58th Street is the billionaires’ back yard, but it’s the front yard of middle-class families with children, and senior citizens,” said David Achelis, who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 of his 67 years.
The project was started “extremely secretively” months ago, lacking work permits or an environmental impact study, Silverstein said.
A stop-work order was issued Feb. 8 by the Department of Buildings after inspectors found ongoing construction in the century-old, nine-story building. The order remains in effect until the building is granted the necessary permits.
“The city approved this project with no notice for the community to be heard,” said the coalition’s attorney, Randy Mastro.
“The city has acted illegally under the city charter, which requires public notice when a contract is being awarded.”
Mastro told The Post that the coalition would likely fight the approval in court — calling the approval “a remarkably irrational decision on the city’s part” that will cost taxpayers a fortune.
“Fifty thousand dollars a bed for a homeless facility? To locate that shelter in this neighborhood makes no sense, is wrong-headed and cries out for judicial remedies,” he said.
Hizzoner defended the project, which comes as his administration seeks to build new shelters to accommodate a record number of homeless people on his watch.
“We said we were going to do it everywhere. We should be doing it in places that are the privileged parts of town as well as every other kind of community,” he said on “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC Radio.
Security cameras will be installed, monitored by 24-hour guards, and there will be a 10 p.m. curfew, said Isaac McGinn, spokesman for the city Department of Homeless Services.
To run the shelter, the city has a nine-year, $63 million proposed contract with the nonprofit Westhab, which is leasing the Manhattan site from the defunct hotel’s owner, New Hampton LLC, for $2.6 million a year, to be reimbursed by the city.
Robin Siskin, a lawyer who lives in a modest apartment across the street from the proposed shelter site, said the homeless men would not be able to afford a neighborhood where a burger at a diner can cost $20.
“My concern is that the men are being set up to fail, while somebody is lining their pockets with money at the expense of the community,” she said. “This is a moneymaker for an LLC, pure and simple.”
But there is some support for the project.
“I believe in the right to housing. We have an enormous problem in New York City and we need places to house people,” said John Sheehan, a resident and director of outreach services for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
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