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NYC Migrant Crisis Deepens: ‘All Options on the Table’ as Shelters Overflow, DC Gives Cold Shoulder

By Mara Lafontaine · August 3, 2023

In brief…

  • Asylum seekers, primarily single men, are waiting on the streets of Midtown Manhattan outside the Roosevelt Hotel for shelter.
  • NYC's Right to Shelter mandate is being stretched thin as Mayor Adams claims NYC's shelters are at capacity.
  • Adams voiced frustration with the lack of support from fellow Democrat Joe Biden
  • The city is considering over 3,000 locations to shelter newly arrived migrants - and won't rule out Central Park.
Asylum seekers and homeless have pushed New York City's shelters to capacity.  Billy Hathorn at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the heart of Midtown Manhattan outside of the Roosevelt Hotel stands a long line of asylum seekers, many of whom have waited on the city’s hot sidewalks an entire week hoping for a safe room and decent bed. 

New York City must abide by a long-standing consent decree to provide shelter to anyone who asks for it under its ‘Right to Shelter’ mandate, which requires the city to provide the homeless a bed within a day. The mandate is part of the reason NYC, a sanctuary city, has among the lowest rates of unsheltered homeless in the country

However, with families receiving priority for shelter, single men find themselves having to wait. “We don’t have another solution. We can only wait here,” said one of the men.

New York has reported more than 90,000 migrant and asylum-seeking arrivals since 2022. To accommodate the mass influx, the city has opened roughly 200 additional facilities, which are now running at capacity.

Mayor Eric Adams says the White House must act.  

NYC Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Manuel Castro told CBS News, “What you’re seeing here in the street, we’ve done everything possible. The federal government is responsible for what you’re seeing here tonight.” 

“We need support, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We need the federal government to come in and say that this is a federal emergency and declaration so that we would be able to help people settle,” said Anne Williams-Isom, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. She declared that “all options are on the table.”

Out of desperation, City Hall it is now looking at over 3,000 locations to shelter the 300-500 new migrants arriving in New York every day. In the face of rumors to the contrary, city officials would not say if Central Park is on the list.

Separately, New York legislators met with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week, seeking federal aid and expedited work authorization for asylum seekers. 

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a progressive Democrat, took issue with President Biden’s apparent unwillingness to help New York City contend with a growing national crisis, saying “It’s the wrong political calculation. Don’t assume that it’s in the bag in New York City and New York State and not assist us in the time of need.”