The City manages its various day-to-day ongoing residency and lifestyles crises, but one is looming that’s about the size of a small city: finding relief, assistance, aid, resources and space for an expected tens of thousands of asylum seekers.
Over the past year, many migrants have come; new arrivals are expected, Mayor Adams said in recent press conferences. And with that will come what New Yorkers are seeing in the headlines and in news reports, the ballooning of the city’s shelters and emergency housing facilities to the point of a crisis situation. New York City — required by the “Right to Shelter” court order to provide shelter to anyone who asks for it — currently is caring for nearly 60,000 migrants.
That fact (and the numbers of incoming migrants) is forcing city administrators to come up with new solutions to its overwhelming space challenges. Ninety-five thousand asylum seekers have arrived in the past 15 months. Officials are looking at 3,000 sites to house them, it was reported last week. These include City-owned buildings housing 190 emergency shelters; locations in hotels; rooms in hospitals are among them.
A new relief facility on Randall’s Island — one that closed last year, is opening to serve as many as 2,000 adults seeking asylum, Mayor Eric Adams announced.
Also, in the city’s plans is the conversion of the abandoned Creedmoor Psychiatric Center to an “humanitarian relief center for migrants.” Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration has provided other state-owned sites for migrant shelters and will reimburse the city for the costs of operating Creedmoor and other facilities.
Another strategy New York City officials are considering is housing migrants in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s world-renown respective backyard garden gateways to relief: Prospect Park and in Manhattan’s Central Park.
As the days grow shorter, that idea — of a Tent City? – may not hold up against the seasonal weather changes, and possible security challenges. But the forecast for a major crisis does.
“Everything is on the table,” said Anne Williams-Isom, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, at a press conference. She didn’t comment on whether or not there were plans for housing migrants in city parks.
Earlier this year, CNN reported that other possible sites on the list include a YMCA in Park Slope; a recreation center in Staten Island; Medgar Evers College and York College campuses; and the Citi Field parking lot in Citi Field in Queens.
“The number of asylum seekers in our care continues to grow by hundreds every day, stretching our system to its breaking point and beyond; it has become more and more of a Herculean effort to find enough beds every night,” said Adams who estimates the cost of caring for migrants will surpass $4.3 billion by next July.
Yesterday, he put a $12 billion cost (averaging $4b per year for three years) on the migrant crisis, blaming the problem on the government’s “broken immigration system”.
How that system will be repaired, deconstructed or reconstructed is of concern, but for now the Mayor declared yesterday at the press conference, if the state and Federal government does not step in “New Yorkers could be left with a $12 billion bill.” Adams spoke from City Hall addressing his concern to the public, in his appeal to the state and the federal government for assistance.
“New York City has been left to pick up the pieces,” Adams declared.
Zach Iscol, New York’s Emergency Management Commissioner, agrees. “We have passed our breaking point and it’s beyond time for others to step up. This is clearly a national issue that calls for national leadership and a cohesive, robust national response.”
On the Federal side, the Department of Homeland Security team is assessing the NYC crisis. And, about $130 million in federal funds have been allocated to New York City for the support of migrants. The mayor and members of New York’s congressional delegation met US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, last week, to discuss the issue.
The New York State budget includes $1 billion toward housing, National Guard assistance and legal services for migrants. Hochul has announced she’s talking with state leaders about an additional $1 billion and is aligned with City Hall in pushing for the White House to allow migrants to work legally in New York.
New Yorkers have seen the homeless finding shelter anywhere and anyhow they can find it: men under cardboard boxes near Penn Station; families with children walking through trains asking for change or food; people with bundles of belongings claiming a portion of wall-space high-rise exteriors.
The personal circumstances are all different, yet the need is the same: services, care, and space for those in need of a place to call home.
Bernice Elizabeth Green