New York City Suspends Shelter Rules as Migrant Numbers Jump

(Bloomberg) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams temporarily suspended some of the rules that require the city to shelter asylum seekers as a surge in migrants strains resources.

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His decision suspends some of the policies concerning timing for placements in shelters, as well as the accommodations the city is required to provide in its shelters for unhoused families, such as a bathroom and cooking facility, according to a copy of the executive order issued Wednesday.

It comes about a week after officials learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the city just $30.5 million to help pay for the costs of the migrant crisis, a fraction of the $350 million in aid it had requested.

“With over 130 emergency sites and eight humanitarian relief centers already opened, we have reached our limit, and this last week we had to resort to temporarily housing recent arrivals in gyms,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for the Democratic mayor, said in a statement. “We will make every effort to get asylum seekers into shelter as quickly as possible as we have done since day one.”

New York City is spending about $8 million a day to house almost 40,000 asylum seekers. Levy said the city has received more than 500 people a day in recent days. That number is expected to swell later this week after the end of Title 42, a pandemic public health restriction that allowed the US to swiftly expel undocumented migrants even if they sought asylum.

Read more: NYC Spends $8 Million a Day to House Migrants as Influx Swells

City Comptroller Brad Lander, a fellow Democrat, criticized the move by Adams, citing New York’s “longstanding legal obligation” to house the homeless.

“We do not need to roll shelter safety protections back, and we should not,” Lander said in a statement Thursday. “With more support from Washington and with overdue action from the Adams administration to provide the assistance that will help asylum seekers get on their feet and move out of shelter, we can face this challenge with both compassion and common sense.”

The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless also condemned the decision, saying in a statement that it “could potentially lead to the city regularly placing homeless families with children in congregate settings” that “put families and children at risk of communicable diseases and sexual assault, and they adversely impact mental health.”

The organizations added that they are weighing litigation.

“No asylum seeking-family that has sought shelter from us over the last year has slept on the street thanks to our colossal efforts, but without more support from our federal and state partners, we are concerned the worst may be yet to come,” Levy said.

The crisis has grown so dire that Adams said Friday that he planned to bus several hundred adult male migrants to two hotels in Orange Lake and Orangeburg, in upstate Rockland County. On Thursday morning, two buses of migrants arrived in the town of Newburgh, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of New York City, Spectrum Local News reported, saying it wasn’t clear how many people they were carrying.

Many of the asylum seekers in New York were bused to the city from Texas and other states, drawing rebuke from Adams.

The extraordinary cost of housing the asylum-seekers is due in part to New York’s unique “right to shelter” law, the result of a 1981 legal settlement that requires the city to provide housing to every unhoused person. That mandate has forced the city to turn to using costly commercial hotels as emergency shelters to house migrants.

--With assistance from Laura Nahmias.

(Updates with report of migrants travelling north of NYC in 11th paragraph.)

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