New York City wants to start housing migrants at the former Manhattan jail that once housed notorious inmates John Gotti, Bernie Madoff and “El Chapo” – before it was closed after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide.
Big Apple officials highlighted their proposal to house asylum seekers at the now-defunct federal prison at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan in an Aug. 9 letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration.
The push comes as Mayor Eric Adams desperately tries to ease the pressure on the city’s already ailing housing system amid the steady influx of tens of thousands of migrants.
In addition to the hotels the city has rented for housing and the various “tent cities” that have been set up across the five boroughs, the letter, written by a senior attorney with the city’s legal department, names several other potential shelters for migrants – including also the infamous former federal prison which closed in 2021.
The federal prison, which has long been accused of being filthy, infested with rodents and insects, and suffering from water and sewage leaks, was shut down after a re-examination over its appalling conditions and security flaws, which were revealed after Epstein’s death in 2019.
The prison held an average of 600 inmates when open. The prisoners included the late Gambino family boss Gotti, pyramid scheme master Madoff, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Epstein, a sex trafficker and pedophile who hanged himself in his cell.
“While we decline to comment on government correspondence, we can provide the following: ‘MCC New York is closed, at least temporarily, and long-term plans for MCC New York are not yet finalized,'” said a statement from the Federal Bureau of prisons
Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, was quick to criticize the move to house asylum seekers in the former prison.
“Mayor Adams likes to say that when it comes to housing asylum seekers, all options are on the table, but certain places should definitely be off the table,” Awawdeh said.
“The Metropolitan Correctional Center was a notoriously run-down prison and is not an appropriate place to support people trying to start a new life in a new country.”
In addition to the federal prison, city officials have requested that Hochul provide state properties to house incoming migrants, including the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center and the State University of New York dormitories.
The Javitz was used to clear migrants. A majority of New Yorkers oppose the dorm option, according to a poll released in late June.
The Big Apple’s handling of the crisis prompted a surprisingly harsh response from the Hochul government this week, which accused City Hall of being slow to act and ignoring repeated offers of government support.
In a letter fired Tuesday by Hochul’s attorney, the state said it offered a list of potential shelter locations as early as October 2022 — only to be ignored by city officials.
According to the latest data from City Hall, the city is home to more than 58,500 migrants in about 200 taxpayer-funded shelters. More than 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the Big Apple since April last year.
“As we have repeatedly said, New York City has been largely left alone to deal with a national humanitarian crisis involving more than 100,000 asylum seekers who have passed through our care since the spring of 2022,” an Adams spokesman said in a statement.
“We have already set up more than 200 emergency sites and every day we are running out of space. We’ve looked at more than 3,000 locations and given the scale of this emergency, all options remain on the table.
“We continue to call on our federal and state partners to lend us the assistance we urgently need.”
With post wires