New York City, amidst an unprecedented migrant influx, has approached the court to re-evaluate its “right to shelter” mandate.
As the city faces pushback from several rights groups, all stakeholders convened on Thursday, opting for mediation to reach a compromise. Judge Gerald Lebovits of the Manhattan Supreme Court revealed that representatives from the city, state, and the Legal Aid Society are set to mediate.
The move may lead to a modification of the mandate, especially as the Adams administration grapples with housing the overwhelming number of migrants arriving in the five boroughs recently.
“The parties have agreed that, for now, there should not be a war of legal papers….For now, the solution is to try to settle the matter, if possible,” said Judge Lebovits.
Over the coming week, attorneys from all sides will meet in the judge’s chambers to discuss the matter while the legal ceasefire holds.
Governor Kathy Hochul recently supported Mayor Eric Adams’ proposal to revise the “right to shelter” mandate, which has been in effect since 1981.
The court filing seeks to address the influx of over 130,000 asylum seekers who have entered the city since last year. Although the city currently houses over 65,000 migrants, the extent of the potential relief from the mandate remains uncertain.
Legal Aid’s Joshua Goldfein expressed hope that the parties could find a resolution behind closed doors. He emphasized the importance of not exposing individuals to potential harm on New York’s streets.
“Nobody wants to see people in the streets of New York exposed to the elements and at serious risk of injury and death,” Goldfein remarked.
The Adams administration has already implemented strategies to manage the high demand for the city’s shelter system. One such initiative encourages migrants to apply for work permits, while another policy mandates migrant families with children in shelters to reapply for housing every 60 days.
Despite criticism from some quarters, the limit to the shelter stay policy has reduced the number of asylum seekers returning to the shelter system.
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams expressed concerns over the administration’s recent restrictions on shelter durations. She found it perplexing, especially as the city pledged to safeguard families. Adrienne said, “People are still coming in….So we’ll continue to lean on the fact that New York is still a sanctuary city.”
City Hall noted that the original right-to-shelter mandate did not foresee the current exceptional circumstances of over 10,000 migrants seeking shelter in the city monthly.
With a significant intake of over 130,000 asylum seekers and projected costs of $12 billion over the next three years, the city’s spokesperson indicated that the existing setup is unsustainable.
The city clarified that its aim isn’t to terminate the right-to-shelter mandate but to adjust the city’s obligations during emergencies.