Mayor Adams says emergency shelters in New York can’t handle migrant crowds

Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday that the Big Apple’s landmark “right to shelter” policy needs to be “reassessed” as the arrival of thousands of migrants is pushing the city’s safety net to “its breaking point.”

City Hall says “nearly 11,000” people streamed up from the southern border over the summer and were initially housed in the city’s sprawling and scandal-ridden shelter system.

“In this new and unforeseen reality, where we expect thousands more to arrive every week, the city’s system is nearing its breaking point,” Adams said in the statement.

“As a result, the city’s past practices, which never considered the bus ride of thousands of people to New York City, need to be reevaluated.”

Adams’ testimony never explicitly mentioned housing rights, but the practices he wants to “reevaluate” are being driven by the four-decade-old court settlement between the Coalition for the Homeless and then-Mayor Ed Koch’s administration. City Hall’s requirement to provide every homeless New Yorker with a bed in a livable facility laid the foundation for the modern emergency shelter system.

And the statement came just hours after civil rights organizations accused the Adams administration of one of the biggest housekeeping violations in recent years.

Migrants from Texas arrive at the Port Authority bus terminal in New York.
Migrants from Texas arrive at the Port Authority bus terminal in New York.
Jeenah Moon/REUTERS

“While we understand and appreciate the demands the city faces, the law is clear: Anyone in need of housing, including asylum seekers, is entitled to it in New York City,” the two organizations said in a joint statement. “This principle has been laid down for decades and is not subject to one-sided tinkering by a new government.”

However, City Hall denied that the mayor, despite his testimony, called for a reassessment of the right to protection or the underlying legal settlements.

“Previous practices, we need to look at all of them,” Adams press secretary Fabien Levy said. “The law is the law, but we demand that past practices be re-evaluated.”

Levy also denied officials ever acknowledged a shelter right violation after the Department of Homeless Services abandoned 60 migrants in a Manhattan overnight reception Monday and forced them to sleep on the floor or on benches.

Mayor Eric Adams
Mayor Adams called for a “re-evaluation” of current policies.

Instead, he said DHS informed the Coalition for the Homeless and Legal Aid that the men could not be accommodated because they were “overly communicative.”

Officials did not respond to questions about how the 60 men reached the five precincts.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made a high-profile show by putting migrants on buses bound for traditionally Democratic major cities. However, the federal government has also shipped new arrivals from the southern border to New York, as have some aid agencies.

City records show the number of people living in emergency shelters has risen to nearly 57,000 in recent days, up 25% from the roughly 46,000 people in emergency shelters in May when the surge began.

The latest figures from City Hall show that 7,300 homeless people were still living in shelters as of last Thursday.

Both numbers remain well below the all-time high of more than 61,000 hits in January 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic.

Gregory Abbott
Greg Abbott brought migrants from Texas to New York City.
Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Adams’ statement, released late Tuesday afternoon, also attacked critics of his government’s handling of the crisis.

“While some may wish to use these extraordinary circumstances as an opportunity to play an unproductive game of gotcha, we remain focused on supporting all of these individuals and families who need our city’s assistance,” he said.

Adams added, “We will continue to work every day with those who choose to work together on this important work to provide these people with the housing and services they so desperately need.”

Adams’ testimony came just hours later. Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless released a joint statement on Monday, revealing apparent violations of statutory housing requirements and blasting the administration for failing to put them in beds.

On Tuesday, the two groups noted in their statement that City Hall “added resources to the system to avoid a repeat of what happened Monday night.”

New York City Department of Human Services Commissioner Gary P. Jenkins
City Hall has denied that Adams was asking for a reassessment of the right to protection.
William Farington

The apparent failure to comply with the court order was another embarrassment for Adams’ embattled social service director, Gary Jenkins.

The Post previously announced that Jenkins was furloughed in August as its agencies missed their own deadlines to secure additional housing and intake capacity to better manage the crisis.

Officials have asked nonprofit social service providers to find and rent up to 5,600 additional hotel rooms to provide emergency housing. An analysis by The Post found that rents could easily reach $300 million a year for the rooms alone.

DHS has not responded to inquiries from The Post about the status of these efforts for two days.

Adam’s handling of the crisis drew the sharpest comments yet from council spokeswoman Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) at her press conference on Tuesday.

MP Edward Koch
Mayor Adams called for a “re-evaluation” of policies put in place during the Mayor-Koch era.

Her remarks were notable because she was more reluctant than her predecessors to openly criticize the mayor’s office.

“This is an unprecedented situation. The city is bursting at the seams and – frankly – is not prepared to handle this influx of people,” she said. “It happened suddenly. The city was understandably not prepared for this.”

She added: “We have to find places to house these individuals because we say we are: we have to live up to that.” Mayor Adams says emergency shelters in New York can’t handle migrant crowds


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