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Asylum-Seekers in City Shelters to Get 60-Day Notices to Find New Housing, Adams Says

“We have no more room in the city,” the mayor said. Meanwhile, the city appeared to turn down the heat in its quest to waive the guaranteed “right to shelter.”

SHARE Asylum-Seekers in City Shelters to Get 60-Day Notices to Find New Housing, Adams Says

Mayor Eric Adams speaks at City Hall about giving 60-days notice to migrants staying at shelters, July 19, 2023.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Asylum-seekers who have spent “significant” time in municipal shelters will begin receiving 60-day warnings to find someplace else to stay, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday in what marks a dramatic shift in city policy.

It comes as the city contends with the ongoing influx of asylum-seekers from the southern border and elsewhere, and with shelter capacity strained by an all-time high of more than 105,800 residents — including more than 54,800 migrants.

“We have no more room in the city and we need help,” Adams said at a news conference announcing the plan. “We must now take additional steps and create urgently needed space for families with children who continue to arrive seeking asylum.”

City officials said 2,800 asylum-seekers entered the system just in the last week. 

The city has opened 188 facilities to shelter asylum-seekers since last spring, scrambling to repurpose spaces in church basements, gymnasiums, warehouses, and vacant office buildings — but most facilities are at capacity, Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said at the briefing. 

Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for The Legal Aid Society, expressed concern about the proposed change to the city’s longstanding policy of allowing people to seek shelter for as long as it is needed. The looming shift was first reported Wednesday morning by Gothamist. 

“This new policy raises many questions and concerns that the city has yet to address,” Haskins said in a statement. “As prescribed by the New York State Constitution, multiple court orders and local laws, both the state and the city have a legal obligation to ensure that people who lack shelter are safe and secure, and protected from exposure to the elements.”

“I Don’t Know What I’ll Do”

The news caused confusion and alarm among migrants staying in city shelters.

“The truth is, I don’t know what will happen,” a Venezuelan asylum-seeker said in Spanish, asking that his name not be used.

The man said he spent more than a month sleeping on a cot inside a crowded gym before being sent to a hotel several weeks ago.

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said.

A City Hall official said asylum-seekers who have spent at least two months at a HERRC, or Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center, will be first to receive the 60-day notices.

Another migrant, Javier, who asked that his last name not be used for fear of immigration consequences, said he plans to leave for Denver this week after staying at a respite center in the East Village.

He told THE CITY in Spanish that he’s moving after growing weary of sharing space with so many other asylum-seekers and because friends had found more stable housing in Colorado.

Still, Javier said, he worries about what may happen to others staying at the shelter. 

“I think it will affect us a lot,” he said. “It’s like leaving us in the street.”

It’s not clear how the new mandate will play out, or if it will proceed without legal challenges. 

Over the next few days, city officials said that asylum-seekers who have stayed for long periods of time at HERRCs will be told they have two months to find another place to stay. It’s unclear how long some people have stayed at the facilities. 

The mandate will specifically target adults, as migrant families will be allowed to stay in shelters, officials clarified. 

The city will start with those who’ve stayed the longest “and continue on a rolling basis,” Williams-Isom said, adding that the migrants will receive support as they seek housing alternatives.

“They won’t be able to go back to the place that they were before, and if we have accommodations, then we will place them someplace else,” she said. 

Adams would not confirm or deny on Wednesday that the city plans to build HERRCs at Aqueduct Racetrack and the former Creedmoor Psychiatric Facility, both in Queens, as THE CITY reported last week.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said. “Everything is on the table based on the operational needs that we have.”

Adams said the city has further plans to go on the offensive and will begin distributing flyers around border areas aiming to deter people from traveling to New York. 

“Housing in NYC is very expensive,” the flyers, distributed in English and Spanish, will say. “Please consider another city as you make your decision about where to settle in the U.S.”

Agreement on Right to Shelter?

Also on Wednesday, the Adams administration appeared to have eased up on its initial push to alter the city’s longstanding policy of providing shelter to anyone who requests it. 

In May, the city’s Law Department requested a judge’s permission to waive the “right to shelter” rule if the city lacks the resources to provide requested housing. 

During a brief court hearing Wednesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards indicated that both sides — the city and shelter advocates — appear to be heading toward an agreement without judicial intervention.

“I’m convinced the parties have been working extremely hard to try and resolve these matters,” Edwards said.

Outside court, Jonathan Pines, a lawyer with the Law Department, declined to discuss the negotiations. But Legal Aid’s Joshua Goldfein offered an optimistic assessment on where things now stand.

“The city has, I think, over time had different requests as the facts changed,” Goldfein said. “And I think the goal is for everybody to come together and feel comfortable that people will be protected, but that the city will be able to respond.

“I think we’re all on the same page in that we all want everyone to be safe and have a place to be at night,” he added. “And we want the cost to fall on the appropriate parties — not entirely on the city.”

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