On my first day back after an extended trip to Florida, stuck there due to the pandemic, I step outside and stretch in the morning sun.
A disheveled man stands a few feet away, defiant and maskless. Hey, he’s peeing in front of my house. Should I confront him? Call the cops?
My super smirks at me: Welcome to the new normal.
How did this happen so fast? Homelessness was out of control in New York City even before the pandemic hit, and COVID-19 runs rampant in crowded homeless shelters. To stem the spread, the city recently moved hundreds of homeless into hotels on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen.
With their tourist business dried up, how could hotel owners refuse a generous offer from the city to put up homeless people, even with a few career criminals and pedophiles tossed into the mix? Don’t they have bills to pay?
Sam Domb, the owner of the Lucerne Hotel turned homeless shelter one block from a schoolyard, helped fund New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s absurd presidential run. Are political donors calling in their markers? Hotel developer Domb recently put his own Upper West Side home on the market. Hmm ...
We all want to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But how does my traumatized senior neighbor, recently confronted by a maskless hotel refugee screaming in her face for refusing to fork over cash, fit into that scenario?
The mayor has insisted these are atypical incidents, but that he will nonetheless “start the process” of moving these people “back into safe shelters.”
Meanwhile, a temporary restraining order was recently issued to prevent the conversion of a Jericho hotel into transitional housing with services for the homeless. There are three homeless shelters in Jericho to which locals have donated food and time. But with what is happening in NYC, can you blame them for being wary about not being consulted and who would really be living in the proposed project?
This isn’t a pick-sides situation. We can care about homeless people, and also care about the welfare of our families. Politicians are doing homeless people no favors in New York City by shunting them from hotel to shelter to expensive hotel, instead of investing in adequate security and counseling services for them.
The bottom line is, can we count on developers and public officials to do what’s right by all of us?
So far, no good.
Playwright Mike Vogel tweets at @mikewrite7.