New York City officials are moving ahead with a plan to open a sprawling tent shelter to house 1,000 migrant men at a parking lot on the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens, officials confirmed Wednesday.
At a press conference at City Hall, Zach Iscol, the commissioner of New York City Emergency Management, said they hoped to be able to open the new shelter by early August. The plan was first reported by THE CITY in mid-July, but city officials had declined to confirm details about the plan until the Wednesday meeting.
Another proposal to erect a second 1,000-person tent structure at Aqueduct Racetrack has been nixed due to fire safety concerns and the fact that the state needs the parking lot back by early September for race season, Iscol confirmed.
New York state owns the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center and is expected to reimburse the city for the cost of the building and running the new shelter, according to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom.
The plan to build a large-scale migrant shelter on the campus of Creedmoor has been met by pushback from local elected officials who have voiced concerns about the site being so far away from public transit.
Immigrant and homeless rights activists have repeatedly decried the city’s use of sprawling, barracks-style facilities to house migrants. The city opened and closed similar tent shelters on Orchard Beach and Randalls Island in the fall, when a surge of asylum-seekers first started arriving in New York City.
“Queens will always open its arms to any and all people wishing to seek refuge and build a better life here,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who is calling for the city to set up a community advisory board to address neighborhood concerns with residents of the shelter as they arise.
“The success of this effort hinges upon an efficient, constant channel of communication between the state, city and borough, as well as a community-informed decision making process around ensuring the needs of our asylum-seekers are met and the concerns of area residents are heard,” he added.
Another Record High
The move to open another large-scale facility to house migrants comes as the city’s shelter system is bursting at the seams. More than 107,300 people were staying in city shelters as of Monday night, more than double what the shelter population was when Mayor Eric Adams took office in January 2022. Among them, 56,200 are asylum-seekers, according to the city’s count, living scattered across 192 hotels, shelters, empty office buildings, church basements, gymnasiums and other improvised settings all across the five boroughs.
A shelter opened inside an empty office complex in Clinton Hill earlier this month is expected to become the largest shelter in the city’s history, with the stated capacity of 2,000 people.
This week Gothamist reported on widespread issues playing out at ad hoc shelters across the city. Some migrants were sleeping on the streets after getting kicked out of one shelter for rule violations. Others described frozen food being distributed, or few if any working showers and restrooms at some locations, the publication reported.
THE CITY reported on a migrant shelter for families where residents complained the food had repeatedly sickened them and sent multiple people to the emergency room. With a heatwave bearing down on the city, HellGate reported a respite center in Midtown does not have reliable air conditioning.
“It’s unfathomable how this mayor paints himself as a ‘man of god’ and devout Christian, yet his policies are purposefully dangerous and inhumane,” said Ariadna Phillips, with the group South Bronx Mutual Aid. The group has repeatedly called for permanent housing solutions for migrants, and has been ringing alarm bells about conditions at emergency shelters.
“These men seem to be the litmus test for how inhumane the conditions can be,” she added.
Responding to the array of concerns Wednesday, Williams-Isom conceded things aren’t going perfectly. “That’s why we need help. That’s why we keep on saying we’re out of space,” she said. “This is a national issue. We need national support.”
The Adams administration last week escalated its efforts to contain the influx of migrants to the city, announcing a plan to distribute flyers on the southern U.S. border to dissuade migrants from traveling to the five boroughs. Officials also said they would warn adults who have been in shelters for the longest stays that they had 60 days to get out.
On Wednesday, Ted Long, senior vice president with the city’s Health + Hospitals system, said so far they sent out at least 100 of those 60-day warnings. Health + Hospitals, which runs 13 large-scale emergency shelters dubbed Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, put out a request for proposals for project management help to get more migrant shelters up and running, THE CITY reported.
Long added that officials resorted to opening up ballrooms inside hotels where migrants were staying, using every last inch of extra space to set up additional cots.
“Tonight we will use every ballroom I have,” he said. “It’s not because we want to. It’s because we have to, given the strain that we’re under.”