Outcry as New York mayor says shelter mandate should exclude migrants

<span>Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Severe, widespread flooding in New York City on Friday prompted outcry from advocates of migrants and the unhoused, whose living conditions left them vulnerable in the face of the extreme weather.

The inundation – which has left huge swaths of the city swamped, closed roads and rendered several subway lines inoperable – came a day after the city’s mayor, Eric Adams, said he believed migrants should be excluded from New York’s right-to-shelter mandate. The mandate requires the city to provide shelter beds to anyone in need of them.

Related: New York sees wettest day since Hurricane Ida as heavy rain causes severe flooding – live

On a Thursday appearance on WABC’s Sid & Friends In the Morning talkshow, Adams said: “I don’t believe the right to shelter applies to a migrant crisis.”

The Coalition for the Homeless’s deputy executive director for advocacy, Will Watts, said the remark from Adams was “unconscionable”.

“The current flooding New York is experiencing is just another reminder of how the right to shelter is critical to ensuring more individuals, families and children are not relegated to the streets, subjected to inclement weather, which can lead to serious injury or death,” Watts told the Guardian.

“That’s why it’s unconscionable that Mayor Adams and Governor [Kathy] Hochul are even considering weakening that fundamental right, especially as winter is approaching.”

Hochul and Adams issued a state of emergency Friday morning that urged New Yorkers to stay home.

Adams said: “If you are at home, stay home. If you are at work or school, shelter in place.”

The flooding also leaves residents in basement apartments particularly vulnerable.

Tenant advocacy organization Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone, or Base, repeated calls for a basement apartment legalization program to ensure flood protections and better emergency outreach to the residents living on building floors that are closest to the bottom.

In a statement, Base said Friday: “Today’s heavy rainfalls and flash flooding are predictable emergencies, yet the City and State remain unprepared to protect New Yorkers – especially those living in basement apartments.

“Opt-in text messages and belated emergency alerts are woefully insufficient. Protecting the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who rely on basement apartments for affordable housing must start with legalization, and include major investments in the city’s stormwater infrastructure.”

One to five inches of rain had fallen in parts of New York City on Friday since the early morning, the National Weather Service reported.

One to two inches of rain an hour were still expected later in parts of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and Adams warned residents to expect 8in in the span of 24 hours.