Eric Adams, the New York City Democratic nominee for mayor, wants to kill two birds with one stone with his plans to tackle the city’s twin problems of hotel vacancies and homelessness. The plan? Fill the empty space in city hotels and transform them into affordable housing units for New York’s vulnerable populations.
Adams pitched his plans on Tuesday during a visit to Sunset Park in Brooklyn. In January, a New York City Department of City Planning report showed that 20% of hotels were closed after the COVID-19 pandemic all but erased demand for rooms. During the pandemic, a number of city hotels stepped up to help the government protect homeless New Yorkers from the pandemic by opening up their space to them, but that program has been in the process of unwinding.
For Adams, sticking with the spirit of this policy is a blueprint for how to meet his campaign pledges of providing more affordable housing in New York.
“The combination of Covid-19, the economic downturn and the problems we’re having with housing is presenting us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Mr. Adams said in front of a shuttered hotel, a fitting backdrop to preview his plans if he enters Gracie Manor in January. “Use these hotels not to be an eyesore, but a place where people can lay their eyes on good, affordable, quality housing.”
The candidate’s remarks were more of a statement of aspiration more than it was a delivery of any detailed plan. Adams noted that he would like to concentrate on converting 25,000 rooms in shuttered hotels into affordable homes, but he added that he would be focusing reconversions in boroughs where there is less space available than Manhattan.
His proposal also appears very similar to the program of Mayor Bill De Blasio, whose shelter policies have come under criticism. In an echo of the quality of life aspect of Adams’ remarks, residents who live near the homeless inhabited hotels have complained that they are more fearful of crime and harassment in their neighborhoods since the policy began. Amid these complaints, City Hall has moved to end the temporary housing policy and shift the homeless to new shelters.
However, the city was forced to pause its homeless relocation project after a federal judge ordered it to be halted because they said officials did not adequately take into account the health risks of those it was moving.
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