The mayor’s claim that hotels should free up rooms for tourists is challenged by the industry itself.
“It is absolutely imperative for many hotels that this program continue,” said Vijay Dandapani, president of the New York Hotel Association last week. Even counting the homeless, occupancy rates are low, he said, and the lack of demand has driven down room prices in hotels open to the public.
But the hotels, many of which were concentrated in Manhattan neighborhoods in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea, have drawn community opposition since the start of the program. Neighbors complain that hotel residents use drugs, hang out, steal from shops and harass passers-by.
One hotel, the Lucerne on the Upper West Side, a few blocks from Central Park, has been the subject of a months-long political battle in a stronghold of liberalism after nearly 200 men, many struggling with addiction problems, were transferred there.
Some residents have welcomed the men. Many did not and strongly pressured the city, which tried to transfer them to a hotel in another affluent area of the city center, to face a lawsuit there.
Last week, the men had been moved out of the hotel and back to shelters.
One of them, Mike Roberts, 36, offered a dispatch on Sunday from his new home in the East Village.
He sleeps in a room with seven or eight cabins that each house three or four men. If he reaches out from his bed, he can touch the next one.
Unlike his room at Lucerne, the one in the refuge has no air conditioning. Mr. Roberts often wakes up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat, and he cannot walk around because if he leaves the shelter between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. he loses his bed. Needless to say, his room does not have a private shower or TV.
“Here when I wake up I’m in a cabin,” he said. “It’ll be three people around me sleeping, one snoring, one probably getting high, or a guy pacing up and down. Who wants that? “