Residents of Hell’s Kitchen expect a summer of the ‘living dead,’ as the homeless population grows.
Residents of Hell’s Kitchen fear a summer of the “living dead” as the city’s thousands of vagrants emerge from their homeless hotels over the last year.
The difference between a “sewer” and a “cesspool” is the length of time Marisa Redanty, a Hell’s Kitchen activist, characterized the area in recent weeks, as the return of warm weather resulted in an unexpected increase in the presence of drug-addled and deranged homeless people on Midtown’s streets.
This summer, she predicted, would be “the night of the living dead.”
According to NYPD data, the area’s homeless hotels have already devolved into quality-of-life hellholes.
Police, EMS, and fire departments have already responded to 233 calls at Spring Hill Suites on West 36th Street this year, compared to just 22 calls at the same time last year, before the city started relocating shelter tenants to hotels in April.
The Four Points Sheraton on West 40th has seen an increase in 911 calls from 54 to 198.
Police have already responded to 392 calls at the now-famous Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue in 2021 — almost four a day — compared to 72 at the same time last year.
According to state records, the Skyline is home to two Level 3 sex offenders — the most dangerous classification — and one former member of New York state’s 100 most wanted fugitives list. The Skyline is located just steps from three city high schools on 50th Street.
Alyssa Owens, 24, was charged in January with murdering her own two-month-old baby at the Candlewood Suites Hotel on West 39th Street.
Last month, the neighborhood’s homeless crisis garnered national attention when Vilma Kari, 65, was viciously assaulted in broad daylight on West 43rd Street in an attack captured on viral video.
Brandon Elliott, 38, is a convicted murderer who murdered his mother in 2002 and was staying at the Four Points Sheraton on West 40th Street, raising fears that other violent ex-convicts are openly roaming Hell’s Kitchen’s streets.
Neighbors report a rise in visually ugly crime pouring out of hotels and onto the sidewalks: robbery, substance trafficking, public defecation, open-air sex, and random violence.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” said Dan DePhamphilis, the manager of Rudy’s Bar and a resident of the neighborhood for over 30 years. Over the last year, he said, the cameras outside his Ninth Avenue watering hole have captured everything from drug deals to gunshots.
“Our leaders have wreaked havoc on the area, with Hell’s Kitchen serving as a focal point.”
Surveillance video captured a couple smoking what seemed to be crack and having sex outside Rudy’s basement doorway, with daylight shining down on them from Ninth Avenue just steps away. Since then, the stairwell entry has been boarded up.
Two weeks ago, across the street from Rudy’s, a belligerent customer punched the manager of Five Napkin Burger on the corner of 45th Street.
In the early days of the COVID outbreak, Mayor de Blasio hurried to relocate homeless shelter tenants into hotel rooms, claiming that such spaces would be safer than congregate shelters. Hell’s Kitchen absorbed a disproportionately large proportion of such homeless people.
According to the Department of Social Services, the city converted 67 hotels in all five boroughs into shelters, with ten of those located in Hell’s Kitchen.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer noted in a September 2020 letter to Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks obtained by The Post that over 2,100 homeless people have been relocated to Manhattan Community District 4, which includes Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.
“The density of the transfer,” Brewer wrote, “has put a strain on the community’s capacity to absorb it.”
Hizzoner committed to relocating the city’s homeless from hotels to shelters – but had no timeline.
“We fully want to ensure that people who have been staying in hotels return to shelter environments, because that is where they will receive proper mental health care,” de Blasio said at an April 6 press conference.
Last summer, he made the same vow.
The Department of Homeless Services is “extremely conscientious about [the timeline],” Brewer told The Article.
The city revealed Tuesday that it will soon send 80 cops to Midtown to fight vagrancy and safety problems — but that announcement has done little to allay community concerns.
“Overnight, the streets were overrun with garbage. “People are defecating in the streets,” Steve Olsen, owner of West Bank Cafe on West 42nd Street, said.
“The cops cannot harm you. However, they are helpless and unappreciative, even more so now that catch-and-release laws have been implemented.”
Along with the ten homeless hotels, the Garment District Alliance, in collaboration with the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Alliance and Community Boards 4 and 5, has identified six long-standing local facilities dedicated to homeless and addiction services.
The majority of these sixteen facilities are concentrated around the Port Authority Bus Terminal, providing a hellish, high-capacity entry point for offenders from surrounding communities.
“Many of the issues may not originate with the residents of those hotels, but with relatives, acquaintances, and others who prey on those residents, such as drug traffickers, pimps, and others,” said Jerry Scupp of the Garment District Alliance.
Redanty said that many neighborhood eateries have developed into distribution centers for outside gangs and traffickers selling drugs to the neighborhood’s large population of eager customers.
Robberies, criminal rapes, and burglaries more than doubled in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same time last year, despite the fact that even less people are out now than in the first three pre-pandemic months of 2020.
Rudy’s Bar owner DePhamphilis claimed that “every small business” on Ninth Avenue has been robbed in the last year.
Paul Fable, whose family has run Poseidon Bakery on Ninth Avenue for 98 years, said, “I watch it all day out the windows.” “The drug sales, passersby taking food from the tables across the street. DHS has additional protocols governing what is permissible. There must be some repercussions. There has to be a semblance of law and order.”
Fable is now armed with a baseball bat to defend his business.
According to NYPD officer Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, politics has made it almost difficult for police to uphold the law and order.
“There is a strong link between public policy and rising crime,” Mullins said, referencing recent legislation that made New York City the first municipality in the United States to eliminate eligible immunity for police officers, while catch-and-release bail reform means suspects are quickly released back into the streets.
“For as long as I can remember, De Blasio has been the worst mayor in New York City,” Mullins said, “coupled with a City Council that passes legislation they know is wrong.”
Another recurring issue is that the city’s homeless shelters are funded by a coalition of public funds and private non-profits, as The Post reported last month. Victor Rivera, the operator of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, was recently charged with bribery and kickbacks in connection with a bribery and kickback scheme. Childrens Community Services, a hotel-shelter provider, was charged last year with defrauding taxpayers of millions of dollars.
Sal Salomon, a Hell’s Kitchen resident, spent time in jail and the city’s homeless shelter system, including its hotels, before finding a place of his own in recent months. He asserted that hotels are ill-equipped to deal with problems associated with homelessness, ranging from food to protection to access to mental health services.
“Everything that happens in prison occurs in the shelters, but they remain hidden from the media,” he said. “The brawl. The pharmaceuticals. The shelters are on a par with jails. In the very least, in jail, you are aware that you are in prison. Even the jail food is superior.”
Salomon said residents of the city’s hotel shelters are served microwaved box meals. “They cook for you in prison.”
Matt Fox, owner of Fine and Dandy, a boutique on West 49th Street near the Skyline Hotel, believes the worst is yet to come for local businesses if the city fails to address the Hell’s Kitchen homeless problem quickly.
“We need the return of our visitors, and in order to do so, we need the return of our hotels. The city has taken far too long to resolve the issue,” Fox said. “There is a narrative that small companies that have progressed this far have done so successfully. However, if nothing changes soon, we could see more companies close in the next couple of months than we have in the last year.”
“How long will this go on?” inquired Fable of Poseidon Bakery. How much longer must our neighborhood suffer?”