A judge in Staten Island has ordered New York City to discontinue its use of a former Catholic school, intended to accommodate 300 migrants, as a shelter on Tuesday, September 26th.
Justice Wayne Ozzi granted an order for the city to stop housing asylum seekers at the now-vacant St. John Villa Academy site. The city immediately appealed the decision.
The directive from Judge Ozzi followed a lawsuit spearheaded by Borough President Vito Fosella and local Republican leaders.
The litigation claims that by sheltering approximately 300 migrants, including children, at the unused Catholic private school, the Adams administration is overstepping zoning regulations and other rules.
Judge Ozzi concurred with the Republican arguments, instructing the city to “immediately” relocate the migrants from the academy.
However, after the decision, Mayor Eric Adams’ spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak announced plans to appeal and confirmed they wouldn’t leave the site in the meantime.
Mamelak noted, “We are taking steps to immediately appeal this ruling,” adding that they firmly believe the judgment “threatens to disrupt efforts to manage this national humanitarian crisis.”
About a month ago, Judge Ozzi passed a temporary restraining order preventing the Adams administration from accommodating migrants in the closed Catholic school.
But this decision was overturned swiftly by the state Appellate Division when attorneys for Adams lodged an urgent appeal.
Besides addressing the zoning matter, Ozzi asserted in his recent judgment that the St. John’s location shouldn’t be used as an emergency housing site because the city’s right-to-shelter directive shouldn’t extend to the massive influx of migrant asylum seekers who have come over the past 18 months.
The judge also strongly criticized the city’s “Right to Shelter” policy, which has mandated since 1981 that all five boroughs offer a house to every applicant.
He asserted that the decades-old law is a “relic of the past” and “is intended to address a problem as different from today’s dilemma as night and day.”
Judge Ozzi wrote, “No one can argue that there was at that time a situation of the magnitude existing today — a virtual flood of migrant asylum seekers whose numbers would fill two Yankee Stadiums and equal one-fifth of the population of Staten Island.”
Fosella praised Ozzi’s ruling, stating, “It is refreshing to know that there are jurists in our system, like Judge Ozzi, who understands our concerns with having migrant shelters placed within residential areas.”
In response to the migrant crisis, the Adams administration is currently arguing in the Manhattan Supreme Court that the city should have the authority to temporarily suspend right-to-shelter obligations, a move supported by numerous Republicans but largely criticized by Democrats.
Mamelak acknowledged the concerns of New Yorkers and emphasized the mayor’s call for increased federal assistance.
She said, “New Yorkers are tired of shouldering the burden of this nationwide crisis, and we understand their concerns.”
Josh Goldfein, an attorney representing the Legal Aid Society in its legal battle against the administration’s move to abandon the right to shelter, contended that Ozzi’s views on the long-established shelter mandate are “not rooted in law.”
The official data reveals that the city accommodates over 60,000 primarily Latin American migrants in various shelters, with hundreds more arriving weekly.