When Mayor Eric Adams was questioned about the wisdom of erecting a tent city for 1,000 migrants in a beach parking lot in the Bronx that is prone to flooding, he insisted it was the right choice.
“We looked at 50 locations and found the best location,” Mr. Adams said last Tuesday. Besides, he noted, “people live in flood zones.”
Then it rained a modest amount over the weekend — less than an inch — and the complex flooded, and the mayor decided on Monday that the Orchard Beach parking lot was not the best location after all.
And so the city says it will fold up its tents, and move them to Randalls Island, a preserve of ball fields and hulking institutional buildings wedged between Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens.
“While we would be able to put in place the necessary ponding mitigation measures, relocating the Orchard Beach humanitarian relief center to Randalls Island is the most efficient and effective path forward,” Mr. Adams said in a statement. “This new location is less prone to flooding, is closer to public transportation and will provide temporary respite to 500 asylum seekers.”
The quick about-face is the latest twist in the city’s attempts to accommodate a surge of migrant asylum seekers — mostly from Latin America, thousands of them bused to New York by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas as a political stunt — that has overwhelmed the homeless shelter system and shows no sign of slowing.
More than 16,000 migrants have entered shelters since spring, the city says. The population of the city’s main shelter system jumped by 6,500 during the month of September alone. It has risen by nearly 15,000 since May and reached 60,000 on Friday, near a record high.
The city and its construction contractor had been racing to finish the emergency shelter at Orchard Beach, plans for which were announced on Sept. 22; administration officials told the City Council on Friday that they expected to open the center as soon as this week.
Mr. Adams said in his statement that he expected the Randalls Island to open “in approximately the same time frame as the originally planned location.” It will accommodate 500 people, half the amount of the Orchard Beach complex.
City officials did not immediately respond on Tuesday to questions about the cost of the false start and of the overall project.
The tent complex, which will be winterized, is not meant as long-term housing; the city said it expected people to stay there for no more than four days. The city has opened shelters in dozens of hotels to house the migrants, as well as an intake and assessment center in a Midtown hotel.
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