NYC Mayor de Blasio Says It’s Time to Move Homeless From Hotels to Shelters

NYC Mayor de Blasio Says It's Time to Move Homeless From Hotels to Shelters Bill de Blasio wearing a face mask New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio helps to distribute food in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens borough in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 16 June 2021 01:05 PM

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday it was time to return thousands of homeless citizens staying in hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic to shelters.

The state must approve the city's desire to remove the homeless from hotels, which were used as temporary housing to accommodate social-distancing requirements during the pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., who has had an ongoing feuded with de Blasio since the mayor took office in 2014, said Tuesday that most COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted in the state.

"It is time to move homeless folks who were in hotels for a temporary period of time back to shelters where they can get the support they need," de Blasio said at a news conference, according to Spectrum News NY1.

"Obviously given yesterday's announcement [by Cuomo] in particular, it's time for us to get that clear sign off from the state so we can move forward."

de Blasio said the Department of Social Services requested state approval on May 18.

The city has paid $1 million per night to house the homeless, according to ABC 7, which added that Cuomo called the situation a public health threat at one point.

The mayor said he hopes the return of the homeless to shelters will be completed by the end of July.

"Everything is ready to go," de Blasio said according to ABC 7. "Obviously, the situation is greatly improved. All of our planning is in place. We know exactly what shelters we are going to bring people back to. We are ready to go. What we need is authorization from the state of New York."

The hotel program, in which 8,000 New Yorkers have lived in 60 hotels, has created tensions in city neighborhoods where residents have complained about placement of the homeless.

"It's out of control and wild, people need help here," resident Joe Restuccia told ABC 7 earlier this year. "We have photos of people exposing themselves, running around on the streets naked."

Reuters reported that although many of the homeless people living in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen hotels largely had been inconspicuous, some with mental health and drug problems have become a growing presence in the area.

Several of the 8 Democrats running for mayor in Tuesday's primary election also have called for converting hotels into housing for the homeless.

In early June, de Blasio said New York City has made a "remarkable comeback" from the COVID pandemic, and now it's time to quit fighting "yesterday's war" and start looking even more to the future.

"COVID levels are now 95% lower than they were on Jan. 1," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "It was ground zero, but now it's one of the safest places in the country."