Finding a place to bed down for the night in New York City isn’t as simple as it used to be.
The New York Post reported that “repeat offender” landlord Salim Assa, the owner of at least four residential buildings located in Manhattan, agreed to a settlement with the city that will see him pay $1.2 million. He had been charged with renting apartments to a long list of tourists for most of the past decade.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s Office of Special Enforcement called the illegal hotel settlement the highest in New York’s history. According to reports, Assa’s properties will be operated by an independent property manager through 2021, and will be supervised by city officials.
“This has been a regrettable process,” Mr. Assa said in a statement. “However, we are pleased that we were ultimately able to work cooperatively with the City to settle this matter and we look forward to focusing all of our efforts on the projects in our pipeline.”
At the same time, crime continues to spread through other hotels – those that the city is using as shelters for homeless families. According to investigators, prostitution, drug sales and worse are becoming commonplace. According to New York City’s Department of Investigation (DOI), these and other criminal acts took place in 34 of 57 hotels that housed homeless families with children in 2017.
de Blasio released details of his strategy of opening additional homeless shelters and curtail the practice of using of hotels last year. The plan was conceived as a way to reduce the roughly $575,000 being spent daily to house approximately 7,500 people. An estimated 77,000 New Yorkers are homeless.
Using hotels to house the homeless has always been politically problematic in New York – no surprise, given the high cost and often cramped, dirty and dangerous accommodations. As Mark Peters, Commissioner of DOI told the New York Times, “Homeless families and children are some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. All of us have a heightened obligation to protect their safety and well-being. The city was not doing sufficient due diligence.”
A report released January 4 by DOI revealed that Department of Homeless Services’ commercial hotel procurement process for homeless families with children “did not consider criminal activity at prospective hotels prior to placing families with children at those locations.
In two instances in the Bronx, DOI investigators found homeless families with children sharing the same facilities as prostitution enterprises and uncovered troubling observations and interactions by
homeless residents that included a proposition to work as a prostitute to supplement income.”
DOI’s report also identified dozens of prostitution-, assault- and controlled substance-related arrests on the premises of commercial hotels housing homeless families with children throughout the city.
Based on the report, DHS has agreed to recommendations that will strengthen its protocols for vetting potential hotel sites and mitigate risks associated with ongoing criminal activity at those hotel sites identified as potentially harboring criminal activities.
By: Kenneth HR Robeson