In yet another change in Mayor Eric Adams’s strategy to deal with the unexpected arrival of more than 23,000 migrants in recent months, many of whom were bused into New York from Texas, New York City will close a tent facility for migrants on Randalls Island. Since it opened on October 19, the tent shelter has come under fire from members of the City Council and immigrant rights groups, although some of the migrants who lived there have appreciated it.
The news website City Limits was the first to disclose that the institution will be closing the following week. The city announced in a news release on Thursday night that transportation will be given for the residents of the Randalls Island facility to the Watson Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, whose 600 rooms would now be used to house asylum seekers.
Mr Adams warned in October that it may cost the city $1 billion to address what he called a “humanitarian disaster,” warning that the unanticipated rush of migrant arrivals threatened to push the city’s shelter system to the breaking point.
The Biden administration changed its immigration policies late last month and started removing new immigrants back to Mexico, relieving those pressures and leaving the Randalls Island facility less than half full. However, the arrivals slowed to a trickle after that. Nevertheless, according to a statement released by Mr Adams on Thursday, the city is now meeting the demands of over 17,500 asylum seekers.
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In the statement, Mr Adams added that “we continue to welcome asylum seekers arriving in New York City with compassion and care.” To address this humanitarian situation, we will continue to reorient and change as needed, but it is obvious that we still require financial support from our state and federal partners.
“The news that the Randalls Island tent facility will close came as a surprise to the occupants, who were informed of their imminent change of circumstances by a reporter on Thursday night.” https://t.co/sBNs9Kkg06
— Errol Louis (@errollouis) November 11, 2022
The tent facility, which was intended for single adult men, has 500 beds, a recreation area, and a café. It is winterized. Some migrants who stayed at the shelter gave it high marks for its amenities, which included televisions and phones they could use to call home.
But it’s tucked away in a twisty, remote area of the city on Randalls Island. Other homeless shelters are also located on the island, but it is best known for its summer music events and for being the starting point of a rough tidal strait known as Hell Gate.
Members of the City Council criticised the location almost immediately, claiming that it may be harsh in the winter because there are no residences or businesses on the island. The tent’s occupants had to leave the tent to use the restroom and get their possessions out of lockers so they could do their laundry.
The facility did not adhere to city regulations governing “congregate settings,” according to Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, who represents the group that oversees conditions at city homeless shelters. This is because the beds were too close together and there were too many of them packed into one room. He added that migrants who claimed the tent’s heating system failed to keep it warm enough had also complained to Legal Aid.
He praised the municipality’s choice to close the plant on Thursday. It seems like they created a model without considering the city’s decades of expertise in how to give services to people, according to Mr Goldfein. People were uncomfortable with their trying to reinvent the wheel and they were also cold.
The unexpected flow of migrants from Texas, which Republican Governor Greg Abbott had used as a tool to put pressure on Washington to tighten immigration laws, has been difficult for New York City to handle.
However, the crisis and the attention it brought to New York and its elected officials have altered how the city treats new immigrants, who were previously frequently left to fend for themselves or rely on the help of nonprofit organisations and immigrants who had come before them.
The city started converting hotels into emergency accommodations and setting aside fresh financing for schools as thousands of migrants descended from buses each week and political squabbling over their arrival dominated the news cycle.
However, demand kept rising, and Mr Adams once stated in public that up to 100,000 individuals might be sent from the border to New York. Officials created preparations to house them in tent shelters and even explored lodging them on cruise ships in response to the possibility of that many additional arrivals.
On a low-lying spit of land in the Bronx, a remote area of the city called Orchard Beach was where the initial design called for constructing a tent shelter. Immigration activists and local politicians also expressed their disapproval of the location, including Vanessa Gibson, the borough president of the Bronx, who claimed to have alerted the mayor to the possibility of flooding.
Even so, the city started building, but the mayor decided against it after rainfall caused the construction site to overflow. According to officials, it cost $325,000 to move the site from Orchard Beach to Randalls Island, which is situated in the East River between Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.
The building on Randalls Island’s construction cost an additional $325,000, according to Zachary Iscol, the emergency management commissioner. However, by the time the facility was constructed, the number of migrants arriving in New York had significantly decreased from the height of the crisis, and it seemed as though the tent in a remote area of the city was not particularly necessary.
The tent was home to roughly 170 people, according to officials last week. Some of them were West African immigrants who had previously been in Bronx shelters and small flats, as well as spare rooms offered by mosques or crammed group residences.
At the time, Isa Isadoup, 47, stated, “It’s a good scenario. He went to the Randalls Island tent four months after arriving in New York from Senegal because “there were too many people” in the apartment he was residing in. He claimed that the tent was roomy and sanitary, adding that it even had a place to play video games and phones that could make international calls.
The residents were shocked to learn that the Randalls Island tent shelter would shut down when a reporter informed them of their impending change of circumstances on Thursday night. Ismael Guevara, a 48-year-old Venezuelan, remarked, “I don’t know anything about that. He claimed he had no idea where he would go after the tent was taken down or what housing options the city would offer. I need to know what they’re planning and what they’re going to do, he added. “After that, I’ll know what to decide.”