A group of Upper West Side residents in New York City is reportedly looking into taking legal action against the Big Apple following a number of recent policies that have dramatically increased levels of homelessness and crime in their area.
According to ABC 7, the situation is particularly bad on the Upper West Side — a neighborhood long considered to be one of the wealthiest in the city — because of a program implemented under Mayor Bill de Blasio that moved homeless individuals into hotels in the area to protect them from COVID-19.
One resident has claimed that she no longer feels safe after a man followed her to her home and remained outside her building for hours afterwards.
“Completely unnerving that I have purchased a sound alarm for keychain, and I’m signing up for self-defense. Changing the way I do every day activities,” she said.
Many who live in the neighborhood have echoed similar sentiments. Another woman cited an incident when a homeless man reportedly grabbed her while trying to take her phone.
Others have noted that there has been a marked increase in violence and drug-dealing on the streets. In addition, they have claimed that the area is now plagued with public urination and even prostitution. Some residents have pointed out that some of the homeless who have been moved into nearby hotels are reportedly sex offenders — yet another aspect that has made many feel unsafe.
Moreover, many locals have said that the situation is likely just as dangerous for the homeless on the streets — as they remain without services and are still vulnerable to contracting coronavirus.
“When they’re not wearing masks, congregating, sleeping on the street or sharing bottles, it’s hard to see how that’s helpful. What was the goal of that?” asked one woman.
“What the city has to do legally is house this vulnerable population in proper shelters, where they will get support and supervision and social services they will need,” added attorney Randy Mastro.
As a result of the furor, a new group has been formed under the name “Upper West Siders for Safer Streets.”
It is not the only group addressing the issue. In fact, the Community Board was recently part of a Zoom meeting that included both residents and homeless advocates.
However, New York’s Department of Homeless Services has hit back at the criticism with its own statement.
“New Yorkers experiencing homelessness are our neighbors – and the notion that they are not welcome in some neighborhoods for any reason is an affront to basic decency,” the department said.