By Holly Crocco
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix on June 7 announced that the City of New York is filing suit against more than 30 New York localities that issued emergency executive orders intended to prohibit NYC from arranging for asylum seekers to stay in private hotels within their jurisdictions at the city’s expense.
Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne issued a state of emergency and three executive orders in Putnam on May 22.
According to New York City government, the city has had more than 74,000 asylum seekers ask for shelter since last spring and has opened up more than 160 sites to handle the influx of migrants. In last week’s law suit, NYC is asking the court to declare each of the executive orders null and void and to stop the counties from taking any steps to enforce them any longer.
“Since this crisis began, New York City has — virtually on its own — stepped up to provide shelter, food, clothing and other services to asylum seekers arriving in our city,” said Adams. “We have repeatedly sounded the alarm that our shelter system is at capacity and that we are out of space. While many communities have been overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic about welcoming these new arrivals to their cities and towns, some elected officials have attempted to build metaphorical walls around their localities with unlawful executive orders.”
Byrne said that, prior to declaring an emergency in Putnam, it was confirmed that NYC representatives had contacted at least one permitted temporary residence in the county to inquire about engaging in a six-month to five-year contract, but no county offices were contacted by city government or its representatives.
“The city had previously pledged publicly to fund its operation up to four months at permitted temporary residencies, yet it is now actively seeking long-term contracts while the mayor is simultaneously seeking to claw back its court mandated ‘right to shelter’ rule, which forces the city to pay indefinitely,” he said.
Byrne pointed out that while his executive orders are similar to those in surrounding counties, they are unique in that one clearly states that “absent a shared services agreement” the county will not allow NYC to set up what will become essentially “homeless shelters” within Putnam.
“If Adams succeeds in suspending ‘right to shelter,’ any municipality housing migrants would immediately become responsible for paying for and caring for these individuals,” said Byrne. “Putnam County cannot afford to be put in such a position and our executive order stands.”
Since April 2022, large numbers of individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S. have arrived and then were sent to New York City as they seek temporary housing assistance. Many entered the U.S. at the southern border and were bused, flown, or transported by other means to the five boroughs. According to City Hall, the large number of arrivals has strained the city’s capacity to provide a temporary place to stay for those who need it.
As of June 4, more than 74,000 asylum seekers had arrived within the five boroughs seeking shelter, and currently, more than 47,200 asylum seekers remain in shelter provided by the city, with hundreds more arriving every day. Over the last year, NYC has opened up more than 160 emergency sites to provide temporary shelter or respite to asylum seekers.
The number of intakes per day across the City of New York’s different intake systems has surged from 200 to 300, to as many as 600 to 900 individuals in some weeks in May, according to City Hall. The City of New York is constantly searching for additional locations for temporary shelter and has reviewed more than 3,000 locations for possible shelter, said government officials.
As a part of its massive response, the City of New York has sought to utilize hotel rooms outside the five boroughs to provide temporary housing assistance for a small number of asylum seekers, with NYC covering the cost of those hotels and of providing services to the individuals, as authorized by state law and regulation.