June 25, 2024

NYC Council members want migrants sent to hotels, not Randalls Island


Several City Council members pushed back Wednesday on Mayor Adams’ plan to house migrants in tents on Randalls Island and instead offered an alternate solution — currently shuttered Manhattan hotels.

The counterpoint came from Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala and members of the lawmaking body’s Immigration Committee two days after the mayor unveiled the move to Randalls in a surprise reversal.

In a written statement sent out Monday night, Hizzoner revealed he was abandoning his original plan to send asylum seekers to Orchard Beach in the Bronx and would instead set up tents on Randalls Island, which is already home to hundreds of homeless New Yorkers and which falls within Ayala’s Council district.

On Wednesday, Council Speaker Adams (D-Queens) said neither the Randalls nor Orchard Beach plans were “adequate.”

“Given its own flood risks in the middle of hurricane season and colder temperatures from exposure to the East River as winter approaches, Randalls Island is inconsistent with humanitarian relief,” she said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon. “There are better options that New York City should explore to provide healthier and safer conditions for people who have already experienced so much trauma.”

A day earlier, Adams contended that Randalls offers a “higher peak” than Orchard Beach.

For months now, he has been struggling to house the approximately 16,000 migrants who have streamed into the city since he took office in January — many on buses directed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has used the massive influx of asylum seekers as a way to criticize President Biden’s border policies. Adams has called for more help from the federal government, and on Tuesday, Gov. Hochul announced she planned to activate the National Guard to provide “logistical and operational support.”

In making the case for Orchard Beach, Adams had responded to concerns that the location was in a floodplain by noting that many permanent residents of the city live in such locations. In reversing his decision though, he conceded that flooding was indeed a concern.

But flooding is also a concern on Randalls Island, Ayala (D-Manhattan/Bronx) noted Tuesday. And on Wednesday, she doubled down on that point, calling the Randalls location a “carbon copy” of the originally proposed Orchard Beach parking lot.

“The Council is focused on finding solutions to address the current migrant crisis, which is why we’ve identified more suitable locations for an intake and relief center we believe the administration should consider,” Ayala said in a written statement. “At the same time, we need to address the root of the problem, which is the lack of supportive housing and continued bureaucracy of getting people who are already in our shelter system into permanent housing.”

In the statement sent out by the Council speaker and Ayala on Wednesday, they refer to “approximately 10 large-scale hotels in Manhattan, which … might offer indoor space to host intake and relief services for newly arriving asylum seekers.” But they didn’t specifically identify any of those hotels. Ayala and the spokesman for the Council speaker did not immediately respond to messages.

In their written statement, they did offer a few more specifics when it comes to supportive housing, though. Advocates have long argued that the city needs to expand the availability of affordable, supportive housing to both places people in permanent homes and relieve the burden felt by the city’s homeless shelter system.

On Wednesday, the Council members identified one location — the Gramercy Park Hotel — as a possible candidate for being converted into supportive housing. They also encouraged Adams to do away with a rule requiring that people remain in the shelter system for 90 days to qualify for rental vouchers.

“We urge Mayor Adams and his administration to work collaboratively with us,” said Councilman Shekar Krishnan. “As winter approaches, the situation is only going to become more urgent.”

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