NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams suggested Thursday he wants to exempt the influx of migrants from the city’s decades-old right-to-shelter mandate as his administration tightens the length on shelter stays and explicitly discourages new arrivals.
“I don’t believe the right to shelter applies to a migrant crisis,” Adams said during an appearance on WABC’s “Sid & Friends in the Morning,” referring to a mandate dating back to 1981 that the city provide shelter beds to anyone in need.
He was responding to a decision from a Staten Island judge earlier this week that referred to the shelter guarantee as “an anachronistic relic from the past” that was “intended to address a problem as different from today’s dilemma as night and day.”
The mayor appeared to agree with that sentiment, even as his administration plans to appeal the larger order from Judge Wayne Ozzi, which blocked a migrant shelter in Staten Island.
“Our team is looking at exactly what we’re going to do with the ruling,” the mayor said. “There are parts of the ruling we may — and that’s may — agree with. We’re going to examine that.”
Adams’ comments come as the city moves to seek relief from the right-to-shelter mandate in court and further restricts how long migrants can stay in shelters.
The administration is now limiting shelter stays for new arrivals to 30 days, down from a 60-day limit the city began imposing in July. Migrants can still return to the arrival center for a new time-restricted placement if they have nowhere to go at the end of that period.
The moving target has sowed confusion among asylum-seekers, advocates and elected officials said, as the city looks to limit the surge of more than 110,000 migrants who have come to the city since 2022.
“We saw that people were confused by the messages that they got about what was supposed to happen when they got to the end of whatever time limit they had,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which serves in a watchdog role over the right-to-shelter mandate.
“It doesn’t make sense to put an arbitrary time limit on when somebody is getting services.”
Others say the migrant-specific restrictions are a slippery slope toward weakening hard-fought shelter requirements that keep homeless New Yorkers off the streets.
“The intent here is to illegally get as many of them out as possible by utilizing loopholes that allow them to do that,” Council Member Diana Ayala, chair of the committee overseeing the shelter system, said in an interview.
“My concern is that we’re going to start with eliminating out-of-towners and people from out of the state, and then what? Then we move to New Yorkers?” Ayala said. Speaking of shelter conditions, she added, “They’re just trying to make it as uncomfortable as possible so folks not only don’t come here, but exit on their own.”
Discouraging new arrivals has become an increasingly explicit goal of migrant policies enacted by the Adams administration.
Officials released new fliers Wednesday that they plan to hand out at the border, which note that asylum-seekers in New York City “are now getting letters to move out of the shelter” and warn newcomers that they will not be placed in a hotel. It also notes that the city “cannot help you obtain a work permit,” and that migrants “will not be able to easily find work.”
“NYC is one of the most expensive cities in the world; you are better off going to a more affordable city,” the flier reads.
“We definitely do want to discourage people from coming here so that we can pretty much deal with the 113,000 people that are in our system right now,” Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said at a briefing on the issue Wednesday. “We want to be responsible and tell people the truth about what they’re walking into.”
There are upward of 61,000 asylum-seekers currently in the city’s care, and more than 3,000 entered the city’s care just last week, officials said.
Several hundred migrants have hit the 60-day limits since last week, when the policy went into effect, according to Ted Long, senior vice president at New York City Health + Hospitals, which is running some of the migrant facilities.
From last Friday to early this week, “less than half of those still under our care on day 61 needed to come back to the arrival center for another placement,” Long told reporters Wednesday. City Hall did not respond to a request for more specific figures.
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