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Hell’s Kitchen residents fear a summer of the “living dead” as thousands of vagrants the city dumped in the neighborhood over the last year emerge from their homeless hotels.
A “sewer” and a “cesspool” is how longtime Hell’s Kitchen activist Marisa Redanty described the neighborhood in recent weeks, as the return of warm weather produced a sudden upswing in the presence of drug-addled and deranged homeless people on the streets of Midtown.
“This summer will be the night of the living dead,” she predicted.
NYPD data shows the area’s homeless hotels have already become quality-of-life hellscapes.
Police, EMS and fire have responded to 233 calls already this year at Spring Hill Suites on West 36th Street, compared with just 22 calls at the same time last year when the city began moving shelter residents into hotels in April.
At the Four Points Sheraton on West 40th, the number of 911 calls has grown from 54 to 198.
At the now notorious Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue, police have already responded to 392 calls in 2021 — nearly four per day — compared with 72 at the same time last year.
State records show that two Level 3 sex offenders — the most dangerous classification — are living at the Skyline, including one former member of New York state’s 100 most wanted fugitives list, just steps from three city high schools on 50th Street.
In one Hell’s Kitchen incident, 24-year-old mom Alyssa Owens was charged with killing her own 2-month old baby at the Candlewood Suites Hotel on West 39th Street in January.
The neighborhood’s homeless crisis gained nationwide attention last month when Vilma Kari, 65, was savagely attacked in broad daylight on West 43rd Street in an assault caught on viral video.
The alleged attacker, Brandon Elliott, 38, is a convicted killer who murdered his own mother in 2002 and had been living at the Four Points Sheraton on West 40th, raising concerns that other violent ex-cons are freely walking the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.
Neighbors cite a visibly ugly increase in trouble spilling out of the hotels and onto the sidewalks: theft, drug abuse, public defecation, open-air sex and random violence.
“It’s dangerous, very dangerous,” said Dan DePhamphilis, who manages Rudy’s Bar and has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. The cameras outside his Ninth Avenue watering hole have captured everything from drug deals to gunfire over the past year, he said.
“Our leaders have destroyed the city and Hell’s Kitchen has been a focal point.”
Surveillance video recorded a couple smoking what appeared to be crack and having sex outside Rudy’s below-grade doorway, the daylight from Ninth Avenue shining down on them just steps away. The stairway entrance has since been boarded over.
Two weeks ago, across the street from Rudy’s, a belligerent customer at Five Napkin Burger at the corner of 45th Street punched the restaurant’s manager.
Mayor de Blasio rushed to move homeless-shelter residents into hotel rooms in the early days of the COVID outbreak, believing such spaces would be safer than congregate shelters. Hell’s Kitchen landed a hugely disproportionate number of those homeless residents.
The city turned 67 hotels across all five boroughs into shelters, according to the Department of Social Services – 10 of those landed 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 more than 2,100 homeless were relocated to Manhattan Community District 4, which includes both Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.
“The density of the transfer,” wrote Brewer, “has strained the ability of the community to absorb it.”
Hizzoner pledged to move the city’s homeless out of hotels and back to shelters – but offered no timeframe.
“We absolutely are planning to, first of all, ensure that folks who have been in hotels go back into shelter settings, because shelter settings are where people can get the proper mental health support,” de Blasio said during an April 6 press conference.
He made the same promise last summer.
The Department of Homeless Services “is keeping [the timeline] very close to the vest,” Brewer told The Post.
The city announced Tuesday it will soon deploy 80 cops to Midtown to combat vagrancy and safety issues — but that has done little to assuage neighborhood concerns.
“Overnight the streets were loaded with sh-t. People sh-tting in the streets,” said Steve Olsen, the owner of West Bank Cafe on West 42nd Street
“The cops can’t hurt. But they are in a helpless, thankless position, especially with catch-and-release laws.”
In addition to the 10 homeless hotels are six local, long-standing facilities dedicated to homeless and addiction services, according to a map provided by the Garment District Alliance, in conjunction the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Alliance and Community Boards 4 and 5.
Most of these 16 facilities are clustered around the Port Authority Bus Terminal, offering a hellish, high-capacity gateway for criminals from other neighborhoods.
“Many of the problems are not necessarily caused by the residents of those hotels, but from friends, associates, and others such as drug dealers, pimps and others who prey upon those residents,” said Jerry Scupp of the Garment District Alliance.
Redanty said some local eateries have become hubs for outside gangs and dealers to sell drugs to the neighborhood’s large population of willing customers.
The Midtown South precinct, which includes the bus terminal, reports robberies, felony assaults and burglaries more than doubled in the the first quarter of 2021 from the same period last year, even though far fewer people are out now compared to the first three pre-pandemic months of 2020.
DePhamphilis of Rudy’s Bar said “every small business” on Ninth Avenue has been robbed over the past year.
“All day long I watch it out the windows,” said Paul Fable, whose family has operated Poseidon Bakery on Ninth Avenue for 98 years. “The drug deals, people walking by stealing food off the tables at the restaurant across the street. DHS needs more protocols on what’s allowed. There’s gotta be some consequences. There’s gotta be some law and order.”
Fable now protects his business with a baseball bat.
Politics has made it nearly impossible for police to enforce that law and order, said NYPD officer Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association.
“There is a direct correlation between public policy and rising crime,” said Mullins, citing among other issues legislation passed just last month making New York City the first municipality in America to end qualified immunity for police officers, while catch-and-release bail reform mean criminals are swiftly back out on the streets.
“De Blasio has been the worst mayor in New York City as long as I can remember,” said Mullins, “coupled with a City Council that passes legislation they know is wrong.”
Another persistent problem is that the partnership of public money and private non-profits used to run the city’s homeless shelters is riddled with corruption, as The Post reported last month. Victor Rivera, founder of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, was recently charged by the Feds in a bribery and kickback scheme. Hotel-shelter operator Childrens Community Services was charged last year with bilking millions from taxpayers.
Hell’s Kitchen resident Sal Salomon has spent time in both prison and the city’s homeless shelter system, including its hotels, before finding his own place in recent months. He said hotels are ill-equipped to cope with homelessness issues, ranging from food to safety to access to mental healthcare.
“Everything that goes on in prison goes on in the shelters, but they keep it out of the media,” he said. “The fighting. The drugs. The shelters are worse than prison. At least in prison you know you’re in prison. Even the food in prison is better.”
Residents of the city’s hotel shelters are fed microwaved box meals, Salomon said. “In prison they cook for you.”
Matt Fox, the owner of Fine and Dandy, a boutique on West 49th Street near the Skyline Hotel, said the worst is yet to come for local businesses if the city doesn’t solve the Hell’s Kitchen homeless crisis soon.
“We need our tourists back and to get them we need our hotels back. The city has taken too long to sort out the problem,” said Fox. “There’s a narrative that small businesses that have made it this far have made it. But we might see more businesses close in the next couple months than we have in the past year if something doesn’t change soon.”
Asked Fable of Poseidon Bakery: “How long does this go on? How long does our neighborhood have to suffer?”
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