On Tuesday, May 23, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced in a press release that his administration would be taking steps to suspend New York’s “Right to Shelter” law. The city has been facing the challenge of accommodating the influx of migrants and is taking steps to address the mounting issues associated with it. In recent months, there has been a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving in the city, straining available resources and posing various challenges. Mayor Adams has requested temporarily suspending the city’s long-standing “right to shelter” regulation to manage the situation better.
In the press release, Mayor Adams said, “Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border.”
The city’s Law Department has submitted an application to modify the regulation, emphasizing the need for honesty in addressing the situation and the shared responsibility with government partners. This move comes as a response to the limited federal assistance received by the city, despite the financial implications of the crisis. Since last spring, over 73,000 migrants have arrived in New York City, and the current number of individuals housed in temporary shelters and hotels has exceeded 44,000. The estimated cost of managing the crisis is projected to be around $4.3 to $4.5 billion by June 2024.
Despite the hefty price tag of the migrant crisis, which is the largest humanitarian crisis in the history of the city, the federal government has provided minimal assistance, raising significant concerns about the city’s ability to maintain critical infrastructure and essential services. Despite Mayor Adams’ request for over $650 million to offset the costs associated with the migrant crisis, the federal government has only approved less than $40 million.
Mayor Adams said, “This ongoing flood of asylum-seekers arriving in New York City from the southern border represents a crisis of national, indeed international dimension; yet, the challenges and fiscal burden of this national crisis have fallen almost exclusively upon the City.”
Councilman Robert Holden supports the mayor’s efforts, believing that the city has reached its limit in accommodating more migrants. In the letter sent to Judge Deborah Kaplan, Mayor Adams seeks court approval to modify the “right to shelter” law, which was established by the 1984 consent decree established in the case of Callahan v. Carey. The modification would allow for suspension of the law in the event that the city “lacks the resources and capacity to establish and maintain sufficient shelter sites.”
While Mayor Adams’ actions have drawn criticism from human rights groups, advocates, and lawmakers who oppose undermining the city’s right to shelter, the city comptroller, Brad Lander, argues that seeking legal clarification of the mandate’s application to all municipalities in New York State could be a viable solution.
Mayor Adams recognizes the city’s efforts in addressing the crisis but acknowledges the strain on available resources. He said, “Our city has done more to support asylum-seekers than any other city in the nation, but the unfortunate reality is that the city has extended itself further than its resources will allow.”