Migrants sent to respite centers in NYC; Hochul says SUNY campuses being considered

Janice Yu Image
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Migrants sent to NYC respite centers, SUNY campuses being considered
Janice Yu has the latest developments on the migrant housing crisis in New York City.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City is now temporarily housing asylum seekers in several respite centers which have been popping up around the city with little notice to their surrounding communities.

The respite centers are temporary shelters that offer migrants little more than a cot to sleep on and are an alternative to school gyms.

Mayor Eric Adams said the city's shelter system is buckling and they are trying to prevent it from collapsing.

Adams' spokesperson released a statement on the respite centers saying, "We have already opened up more than 150 sites to shelter migrants. Respite sites have always been meant for very short-term use when we don't have a placement. These are basically temporary waiting rooms until we can find placements for asylum seekers when we have a massive influx of asylum seekers into our intake system and we run out of space. Our goal is to not use these sites, but like we've said, we continue to receive hundreds of migrants every day even though we are out of space. When we find an alternative placement, we move migrants."

In the meantime, that state could be stepping in to help as Gov. Kathy Hochul is eyeing several SUNY campuses to act as emergency shelters.

"We are looking at many SUNY campuses right now. And again, there's a sense of urgency," Hochul said. "So we'll be announcing very soon an offering to the mayor which sites. we have to make sure that they will work, the timing works, the students are gone. And then we'll be able to talk to the mayor and his team about what use they want to have."

During a news conference Wednesday, she would not confirm that the locations could include Buffalo, Stony Brook, and Albany.

Two of those schools, Buffalo and Stony Brook, are in counties that are not under state of emergency due to the migrant crisis. However, officials in Albany declared a state of emergency on Tuesday.

It all comes as the city continues to scramble to find more places to house the asylum seekers.

According to New York City officials, more than 41,000 migrants are being housed in more than 150 city hotels, and they are struggling to find hotels willing to take in migrants.

"We are looking at all state assets to help ameliorate the problem which is at a crisis level here in the city of New York, so yes, SUNY campuses are part of the inventory of what we're looking at," Hochul said.

The city is now asking a judge to take a look at its 40-year-old Right to Shelter law.

Officials are adamant the city isn't looking to get rid of the law altogether, but to get clarification on what flexibility there is within it.

"When you think about it when the laws were written, I don't think anyone thought about a humanitarian crisis of this proportion," Mayor Adams said in a radio interview.

But as for what things look like for asylum seekers and homeless New Yorkers once they get that answer from the judge, that's still yet to be determined.

The city says it's currently working on a migrant cost tracker, similar to the one they had during COVID, so New Yorkers can see how much money is being spent.

Adams said the federal aid provided by the Biden administration doesn't come close to the hefty bill this crisis is costing New York City.

"We've spent over $1 billion. We're projected to spend close to $4.3 billion, if not more. When you look at the price tag, $30 million comes nowhere near what this city is paying for a national problem," said Mayor Adams.

Adams and Hochul are calling on the White House to expedite work authorization for the thousands of asylum seekers in New York City.

The current work authorization process leaves migrants in limbo for 180 days after legally filing for asylum unable to legally work, a process Hochul said needs to be changed.

"That's not working, that's not a solution," Hochul said. "They're ready to work, they're willing to work, and they're not able to work."

ALSO READ | NYC now transitioning migrant welcome services to Roosevelt Hotel

The Roosevelt Hotel has been transformed into a stopping ground for asylum seekers. Johny Fernandez has more.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More New York City news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a News Tip