shelter

Judge Tosses Challenge to ‘Billionaires’ Row’ Homeless Shelter

A woman walks by the shuttered Park Savoy Hotel on West 58th Street on Feb. 28, 2019.
A woman walks by the shuttered Park Savoy Hotel on West 58th Street on Feb. 28, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A long-delayed homeless shelter planned near “Billionaires’ Row” got a nod of approval Monday from a judge who ruled against opponents.

The embattled facility for 140 homeless men, located at the former Park Savoy Hotel on West 58th Street — one of Manhattan’s priciest blocks — has been stalled since neighbors sued to stop the shelter’s opening last July.

The decision marks a milestone in a long legal battle that has pitted residents against the project — part of City Hall’s plan to build 90 new homeless shelters across the city.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Alexander Tisch rejected the legal challenge brought by the West 58th Street Coalition, which claimed, among other things, that the shelter building was unsafe and not in compliance with building and fire codes.

Tisch’s decision said that on matters of safety — including the fact that the building has only one entrance or exit — the court leaves it up to city agencies and the Fire Department to determine whether the building is safe, via a fire protection plan and a new sprinkler system.

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

The West 58th Street Coalition’s attorney Randy Mastro said in a statement the group is pursuing an “immediate appeal.”

“This unsafe building should not be permitted to operate as a homeless shelter. Placing the homeless in this building puts their lives at risk, as well as the lives of staff, neighbors and firefighters responding there,” said Mastro, who served as chief of staff and a deputy mayor under former mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The Park Savoy is nestled between new construction on “Billionaires' Row.”
The Park Savoy is nestled between new construction on “Billionaires’ Row.” Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees the Department of Homeless Services, said in a statement the ruling is “a win for hard-working New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.”

“With the court’s affirmation of the shelter’s safety and compliance with the City’s building and fire codes, we will begin serving our neighbors in need at this location as soon as possible,” he said.

This is not the first time Tisch has ruled against the West 58th Street group: In December, he denied their request for an injunction. A different judge granted a temporary injunction later that month, but ultimately the appellate division refused to hear the case in a January 29 decision, kicking it back to Tisch, court documents show.

The 58th Street shelter doesn’t have an opening date, a spokesperson for DHS said, because the facility still needs final approval from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, a state agency that oversees and regulates shelters.

The application to the state office from city homeless services has been under review since it was first submitted in August of 2017. On Monday, a spokesperson said only that the agency is reviewing the court decision.

The fight over the “Billionaires’ Row” shelter has been among the most contentious in recent years as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration rolls out its “Turning the Tide” initiative to revamp the city’s shelter system. The goal of the effort is to close all hotel and apartment shelters, known as cluster sites, and replace them with new shelters with built-in support services.

So far, 43 out of 90 new shelter sites have been chosen and 23 are open and operating, DHS said.

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.