Metropolitan Correctional Center being considered as a possible migrant shelter

ByJanice Yu and Eyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, August 18, 2023
Officials eyeing former prison facility as a possible asylum shelter
The Metropolitan Correctional Center was considered a possible location for migrant shelter in an August 9th letter to the state. Reporter Janice Yu has the details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- City and state officials are at odds in regards to housing the growing wave of migrants coming into New York City.

Both Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul have suggested several locations, including a federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein was once held.

The notorious Metropolitan Correctional Center, which closed in 2021 following the suicide death of Epstein, was suggested as a possible location in an August 9th letter to the state.

That shutdown came after the detention center, whose prisoners have included Mafia don John Gotti, associates of Osama bin Laden and the Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, came under new scrutiny because of squalid conditions and security lapses exposed following Epstein's death.

Lawyers had long complained that the jail was filthy, infested with bugs and rodents, and plagued by water and sewage leaks so bad they had led to structural issues.

It's not clear if the city has approached the Federal Bureau of Prisons to possibly use the facility as a shelter.

In a statement, the Bureau did not confirm or deny the talks, stating "the jail is closed, at least temporarily, and long terms plans have not been identified."

At least one advocacy group assailed the idea of housing migrants at the jail.

"Mayor Adams likes to say that all options are on the table when it comes to housing asylum seekers, but certain places should most definitely be off the table," said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "The Metropolitan Correctional Center was a notoriously decrepit jail, and is not a suitable place to support people trying to build a new life in a new country."

This comes after recent pushback about the latest shelter to open in Queens.

On Wednesday, hundreds showed up to protest against a new migrant relief center at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center facility, where protestors say they do not want a shelter near a YMCA, elementary school and playground.

The city has a working list of some 3,000 potential shelter solutions, and has been working through the options.

The Adams administration is also considering placing migrants in pre-fabricated housing and shipping containers in parking lots like at Citi Field and Aqueduct Racetrack, in parks like Flushing Meadows Corona Park, or even closing city streets to traffic for them.

It also appears that tension is flaring between the city and state over the ongoing crisis, as lawyers for Mayor Adams say the state hasn't done enough to help. The state, however, says the mayor has not accepted the state's offer for help.

Both sides deny any conflict.

"People want to see the governor and I fight," said Adams at a recent conference. "That's not going to happen. I like her, she likes me."

Gov. Hochul echoed similar sentiments, saying, "People enjoy, particularly the media identifying any disagreements as a major fight, so that relationship is strong. My point is we are here to help."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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