Mayor de Blasio is pledging to open 90 new shelters across the city over five years. NY1 Has learned that one of them will be in a stately Manhattan building that until now has been a luxury hotel. Our Michael Scotto has the exclusive details.
The Hotel Chandler on East 31st Street is just a short walk from the Empire State Building.
The 148-room boutique hotel boasts "an air of stately elegance," at a cost of more than $400 a night.
But next month, the hotel will close. And after some quick renovations, the 112-year-old building will reopen in January as a homeless shelter for 170 adult families, the first in Manhattan under Mayor de Blasio's plan to open 90 across the city over five years.
The community was told about the plan late last month.
"Surprise, first of all, because the announcement came unexpected," said president of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association Mario Messina.
The de Blasio administration says the shelter is needed so it can phase out controversial private apartments, called cluster sites, and expensive commercial hotels, which have drawn the criticism of the City Comptroller for their high cost and lack of services. Some rooms cost more than $500 a night.
"We are literally warehousing homeless people in commercial hotels without services," said Comptroller Scott Stringer. "The cost is a staggering $100 million a year.
The neighborhood surrounding the new shelter already has eight facilities housing the homeless. Six of them are hotels, where more than 1,200 people live in rooms without kitchens.
"Nobody wants to eat microwavable food every day," said one.
The city says those six hotels will be phased out by 2023, but it has not set a specific date.
That's a concern of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association President, who fears the hotels will remain open indefinitely.
"I'm afraid we're gonna end up with a nice shelter," Messina said. "Hopefully that works as a shelter and a bunch of wannabe shelters that are working 50-50.
The city says it isn't buying the Hotel Chandler building, or operating the shelter. A group called Services for the Underserved will run the shelter at a projected cost to taxpayers of $150 per room per night.
The City says it will consult with community leaders and hold meetings to ensure the shelter runs smoothly.