New York City Council holds oversight hearing on response to asylum seeker crisis

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Friday, September 30, 2022

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The treatment of migrants bused to New York City was the focus of a City Council oversight hearing on Friday.

The council's Committee on Immigration asked the mayor's office for more information on the resources and services it is providing.

That includes the new Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center, of HERRC, being built at Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

The massive tent city is designated to provide temporary shelter and social services after 15,000 migrants have overwhelmed the city's shelter system.

"The Orchard Beach location is in a flood zone in the middle of hurricane season, it is outside as cold weather approaches, it is in a transit dessert, it is being constructed by a contractor that built Trump's xenophobic border wall," said councilmember Shahana Hanif.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said there are still many questions about the plan that remain unanswered.

Also at issue is that Council members say right to shelter laws should apply to asylum seekers.

Administration officials say HERRCs are voluntary and migrants can be housed in a shelter if they choose.

"These HERRCs are set up not to replace the shelter system but to give us the time and space to do that operation correctly," said Commissioner of NYC Emergency Management Zach Iscol. "To make sure that we are figuring out what the needs of people are. To welcome them with a shower, a warm meal, meet their immediate medical needs and then figure out what the next steps for them are."

Administration officials say they are working with the state to create transit options to the 6 train and they have a plan in place to move migrants to coastal storm shelters ahead of flooding.

They say they are working on separate facilities for families with children, although the location is yet to be determined.

"Orchard Beach is just the first of probably many other HERRCs that probably we might have to establish," Iscol said. "It's also the one that we could build the quickest. And the intent is not to keep the HERRC at orchard beach going for a long period of time."

In the past week, Mayor Eric Adams has compared the migrant crisis to the coronavirus pandemic.

"To those who are saying is it humane to use tents, what are people talking about," Adams said. "There were tents in Central Park during COVID, we had a boat, a hospital boat that was utilized. This is the humane way."

Meanwhile, Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless continue to be against housing asylum seekers on cruise ships.

They are raising concerns over how they may be isolated from access to jobs, health care, schools, legal assistance and other services.

ALSO READ | Tracing the steps of asylum seekers as they settle in New York City

Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne went to the Port Authority bus terminal recently to watch how newly-arrived asylum seekers were processed in New York City.


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