Rockland County vows to fight NYC mayor's migrant bus plan

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Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Rockland County vows to fight NYC mayor's migrant bus plan
Rockland County and Orange County are both under a State of Emergency as leaders brace for an influx of asylum seekers and vow to fight NYC's plan. Jim Dolan has the details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A top official representing a suburban New York county where New York City's mayor wants to send asylum seekers is vowing to fight the plan by enforcing a state of emergency.

Federal, state and local leaders in Rockland County said Monday they strongly oppose a plan to send 340 single migrant men from New York City to a hotel in Orangeburg.

"We are not equipped to humanely assist these individuals, which eventually we're going to have to do," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference where he was joined by U.S. Rep Michael Lawler and other officials opposed to the plan.

Day, a Republican, called Mayor Eric Adams' plan to bus up to 300 single adult male migrants to hotels in Rockland and neighboring Orange counties "the same as throwing people out to the middle of the ocean who can't swim and saying 'go to shore.' It can't work."

Lawler, a Republican whose Hudson Valley district includes Rockland County, said he was "vehemently opposed to this plan which would shift the cost for housing, food and health care for folks who may be here illegally onto Rockland County and our municipalities."

Adams announced the plan as cities across the U.S. prepare for a surge in migrants seeking asylum when a pandemic-era policy that permitted the expulsion of many migrants ends. Officials anticipate that the end of the immigration limits under Title 42 of a 1944 public health law will mean more migrants trying to cross the southern border.

New York City officials said they are anticipating 800 asylum seekers will arrive daily after Title 42 sunsets Thursday, and in a five-page draft memo, officials have outlined possible "solutions" for housing them.

Five buses arrived Friday from Texas carrying men, women and families. The asylum seekers that arrived in New York City are being housed at the former police academy, which was once used as a training facility, for at least a week.

New York City is now considering a number of possible solutions outlined in a draft memo, including gyms at local colleges, public schools once classes are out, tents in public parks like Central Park and Prospect Park and parking lots at Citi Field and the Aqueduct Racetrack.

Even erecting tents on Randall's Island and using cruise ships to house migrants are being discussed, as is a proposal to erect "temporary housing in containers or tiny homes."

There is even a proposal to retrofit unused airplane hangars at Kennedy Airport.

RELATED | Migrant surge as United States prepares for end of Title 42 policy linked to coronavirus pandemic

On Friday, the mayor announced a new strategy that is causing controversy: The city would begin paying for shelter at two suburban locations: two hotels, one in Orange Lake, Orange County, and one in Orangeburg, Rockland County.

The Orange town supervisor learned of the mayor's plan on Friday morning when he called her. She told reporters he offered few details and made it clear it wasn't a request.

Rockland County and Orange County have both declared a State of Emergency in response to Adams' plan.

"New York has received the brunt of close to 60,000 of those who are coming to the city to participate in the American dream and we're not giving them the resources," Adams said.

Day expressed outrage over the plan to house asylum seekers in a hotel there, saying it is absurd and he will not stand for it.

"Rockland is not going to stand idly by as your administration which boasts itself as a sanctuary city diverts busloads of undocumented individuals to our county," Day said.

He questioned the mayor and the governor, "Will you be offering all of the low-income families free housing, food, clothing, and more, for up to a year?"

Citing the state of the economy, he said about the low-income and compromised populations in the county and state, "What about them?"

Rockland County did not declare itself a sanctuary city, Day noted.

The amount of asylum seekers that the mayor is planning to send to Rockland County is five times that of its current homeless population. "That's a huge amount of change," he said.

Day said his State of Emergency means no municipality can transport or house migrants in Rockland without his permission.

The county is prepared to issue fines of up to $2,000 per day, per asylum seeker, to any hotel that accepts migrants from the program. Day said the 170-room Armoni Inn was "pretty much empty" before accepting the 340 adult male asylum seekers.

Another 60 are expected to be sent to the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh.

New York City issued its own state of emergency in October, to get federal resources to help with the growing migrant population. Rockland is the first county in the state outside of New York City to issue a similar order.

Meanwhile, Adams continues to demand more help from the federal government to assist with asylum seekers. He said the city is only getting $30 million in FEMA funding out of the $350 million in total funds it applied for.

Adams' press secretary released the following statement amid the growing backlash against the mayor's plan:

"New York City has cared for more than 61,000 migrants - sheltering, feeding, and caring for them, and we have done so largely without incident. We need the federal government to step up, but until they do, we need other elected officials around the state and country to do their part and emulate the humane and compassionate approach New York City has taken over the past year. The Rockland County executive has sadly already shown he is not a leader this state needs. Instead, we've been met with racist rhetoric and reprehensible threats from the head of a county that will be tasked with caring for less than of 1% of the asylum seekers who have come to New York City, and, once again, New York would be paying for shelter, food, and services."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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