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Illegal Hotel on Upper West Side Gets New Life as Senior Housing

(Bloomberg) — A former illegal hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side will begin a gut renovation this week, transforming into something quite different than the luxury condos that are a staple in the well-heeled neighborhood.

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The Park 79, a seven-story building down the block from the Museum of Natural History, will be remade into housing for senior citizens with limited incomes. The developers have signed an agreement with the city’s housing department to keep the apartments — in an area where new condos sell at a median of $3.39 million — affordable for at least the next 60 years.

“Opportunities like this rarely, if ever, come around,” said Will Blodgett, founding partner of Fairstead, a Manhattan-based residential investor that owns 12,000 units nationwide.

Located at 117 W. 79th St., the building was once a single-room occupancy residence that was shut down by the city after the previous owners illegally operated it as a tourist hotel. Fairstead acquired the property in 2016 for $22.5 million.

Now, the builder has secured the financing to move forward with the plan, closing on a $51 million construction loan from Merchants Capital and a $28.4 million commitment from Freddie Mac.

Housing Lottery

Residents for the 77 units will be selected through a city housing lottery, with the apartments renting for $550 to $700 a month. The building will feature spaces for socializing and Zumba classes, according to David Gillcrist, executive director of Project FIND, an operator of senior housing that is a partner on the development.

The project is an unusual turn for a neighborhood where development sites get snapped up at top dollar by builders aiming for the wealthiest buyers. Even senior housing in the area has hewed to that model: developers Hines and Welltower Inc. are planning a luxury assisted-living project on West 85th Street, similar to one they’re opening next month on Manhattan’s East Side, where monthly rents could top $20,000.

“Many people can’t afford the $20,000 a month,” Blodgett said. “I would argue the services our residents are going to get are just as good.”

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City plans for men being relocated from Lucerne Hotel on Upper West Side include cruel twist

More than 200 homeless men whom the city plans to relocate from an Upper West Side hotel to another hotel Downtown will have to enter their new digs through a side entrance in a pub, of all places, the Daily News has learned.

A homeless resident and a local activist supporting the men — some of whom are in recovery for substance abuse — were shocked to learn of the plan when they visited the new site last week.

“I’m in recovery and I’m OK, but don’t put me in a bar. It just psychologically is triggering,” Shams DeBaron told The News. “I said, this makes no sense at all when there’s [another] entrance over there.”

It’s the latest twist in a saga that began when the city moved thousands of homeless men out of group shelters during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, relocating them to temporary hotels.

When a group of Upper West Side residents threatened last month to sue the city over the placement of some homeless men in the Lucerne Hotel on W. 79th St., Mayor de Blasio quickly caved, deciding to shuffle the men to a Radisson in the Financial District. The Department of Homeless Services was expected to bus the men from the Lucerne to the Radisson, located on William St., on Monday morning.



a group of people walking on a city street: The city is planning to move more than 200 homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to a Radisson in the Financial District.


© Zalcman Daniella
The city is planning to move more than 200 homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to a Radisson in the Financial District.

The city is planning to move more than 200 homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to a Radisson in the Financial District. (Zalcman Daniella/)

Shams and local activist Stephanie Tchuente learned of the plans to have the men enter through a bar, instead of the Radisson’s main entrance, last Thursday.

DHS staff conducting a site walk-through told the duo that to enter the hotel, the homeless men will have to go through the nearby Bailey Pub & Brasserie, undergo a metal detector check there and then use a back door leading into the Radisson.

While the pub is closed for business, a bar including beer taps was visible during the visit, according to Shams and Tchuente, who co-founded a group of FiDi residents working to support their prospective new neighbors.

“They did say they would block [the bar], but didn’t give any details as to how much would be seen or unseen,” Tchuente said of DHS staff. “On all fronts, the city has completely messed it up.”

DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said Shams and Tchuente’s account was “inaccurate,” but didn’t specify what they got wrong or immediately answer a request for clarification.

“The so-called ‘main’ entrance … is too narrow and does not provide sufficient space to implement our standard comprehensive security screening,” he stated. “A second entrance provides sufficient space to implement these required measures, including standard comprehensive security screening as well as implementation of best health practices, like social distancing.”

“There is

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Upper West Side Hotels | NYC Hotel

The Lucerne Hotel offers luxury accommodations in the heart of Manhattan’s posh Upper West Side. Our NYC luxury hotel is housed in a treasured landmark building erected in 1904, and underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. The result is a sophisticated Upper West Side hotel, imbued with European-inspired architectural charm and modern amenities.

The Lucerne’s guest rooms and suites provide comfort and convenience whether you’re here for corporate travel or making memories with loved ones. Featuring full-size work desks and plush bedding, this luxury Upper Manhattan hotel caters to your every need through personalized services. Business and leisure travelers will appreciate The Lucerne’s modern amenities, featuring WiFi, convenient valet parking, 24-hour in-room dining, spa services, and a fitness center.

Enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Nice Matin restaurant and sidewalk café, a popular destination beloved by both locals and tourists. Guests also receive 15% off their Nice Matin bill for breakfast when they stay at The Lucerne. Unwind at the end of the day with some wine during The Lucerne’s Wine Hour. It’s no wonder The New York Times’ review of The Lucerne proclaimed: “Service unrivaled.”

Take advantage of The Lucerne’s desirable location, just a few blocks away from Central Park, Riverside Park and the Hudson River. We are a short subway ride away from a variety of Upper West Side attractions–including Columbia University and Columbus Circle–and within walking distance of The American Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center. We’re surrounded by an array of fine dining, specialty boutiques, and cafes on the UWS.

Book your reservations at The Lucerne to begin your upscale, New York adventure.

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