Emergency migrant facilities are popping up all over town as the city now records more than 100,000 asylum seekers arriving in the Big Apple since southern border officials began chartering buses last year. Roughly 58,000 people remain in New York City currently.
Randall’s Island returned as a location housing migrants this week after another shelter was shuttered following opposition last year. Another site housing up to 1,000 adult men was erected outside Queens’ Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, which drew resistance from residents and figures like Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa and Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
Earlier this week, Mayor Eric Adams announced state government approval for another facility at Floyd Bennett Field in the southeast corner of Brooklyn.
“Because we haven’t seen meaningful policy changes that would alter the course of this crisis, we’ve been forced to play an unsustainable game of ‘whack-a-mole,’ opening new site after new site as asylum seekers continue to arrive by the thousands,” said Adams this past Monday. “We will continue to advocate for expedited work authorization for asylum seekers, a federal declaration of emergency, and a national and state decompression strategy, and we’re committed to making today’s announcement the beginning of a new era of enhanced partnership between our local, state, and federal governments.”
Sliwa — who lost to Adams in the most recent mayoral election — protested the Floyd Bennett Field plans this past Tuesday. He was arrested twice last week rallying under the slogan, “No Tents, No Migrants.”
But even proponents of the city absorbing incoming asylum seeker populations are critical of the emergency shelters, albeit for different reasons. Grassroots activist Power Malu — who greets arriving migrants at the bus terminals — believes the city is better served helping unhoused New Yorkers move into permanent housing to free up shelter space for new arrivals. So while under-resourced residents are pitted against migrants in a scarcity mentality, Malu says the new arrivals should pressure officials to fix pre-existing housing inequalities.
“The migrants are inadvertently shining a light on how horrible the system is, and because of that reason, they’re being punished,” said Malu. “As [migrant] advocates, we need to think about how we can get together [to] can we unite and how can we support the housing advocates that have been fighting but dignify housing for the people who have been in the shelter for so many years.
“And how can we use this moment in our history, to not get caught up in the divide and conquer rhetoric, but actually to unify. To be able to push forward in helping people get housing that have been neglected for so many years.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.