The city is opening a new large-scale migrant tent shelter in the parking lot of the shuttered Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Eastern Queens despite the protests of local officials, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Wednesday.
The new mega-shelter, to be one of the several so-called “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers” (HERRCs), will have space for housing up to 1,000 single adult male migrants, according to the mayor’s office. The site was provided by the state, which owns the facility.
“We’re grateful to New York State for this support opening our newest humanitarian relief center as we continue to work to help asylum seekers reach their final destination,” Adams said in a statement.
The facility will be ready in coming weeks, soon after the construction work is complete, according to Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, who spoke during a briefing on the migrant crisis Wednesday morning.
The deputy mayor said that the state will be reimbursing the city for the costs associated with the newest HERRC — including construction and staffing—and noted that the city appreciated the state’s support given that the Big Apple has already shelled out $1.5 billion on the influx to date. City Hall expects to spend upwards of $4.3 billion by next July if migrants continue showing up at current rates.
City Emergency Management (NYSEM) Commissioner Zach Iscol said the site will offer the same suite of services available at the other HERRCs, including medical care, meals and assistance connecting with family and friends. The tent shelter will be climate controlled, he added.
However, the prospect of placing a HERRC at Creedmoor has been met with a less than warm reception from the surrounding neighborhood of Queens Village. After it first became public the city was considering the site earlier this month, a bipartisan group of area officials and local leaders gathered last week to denounce placing a migrant shelter there.
But rather than casting the migrants as a threat to the community, the group — led by area Council Member Linda Lee (D) — expressed concerns over the mostly abandoned Creedmoor’s potential dearth of available resources and lack of proximity to public transportation.
A separate proposal to place a facility at Aqueduct Race Track in south Queens, which the mayor last week said remains “on the table,” was met with far more venomous community opposition. At a rally against that proposed site last week, elected officials were interrupted by community members demanding the southern border be closed and expressing fears about immigrants taking American jobs, according to a published report.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, one of the electeds who attended the Creedmoor rally, said Wednesday that while he welcomes asylum seekers into the borough, his unease with the facility still remains. Richards called on City Hall to establish a “Community Advisory Board” made up of local officials and neighborhood representatives to address the community’s “numerous valid concerns” about the new HERRC.
“The success of this effort hinges upon an efficient, constant channel of communication between the state, city and borough, as well as a community-informed decision-making process around ensuring the needs of our asylum seekers are met and the concerns of area residents are heard,” Richards said.
The siting of the latest center comes as over 93,200 asylum seeking migrants, mostly from Latin America, have arrived in the Big Apple over the past year — with 56,200 newcomers currently in the city’s care. Once the Creedmore facility and a separate HERRC opening in Brooklyn are open, the city will have 15 humanitarian relief centers — part of 194 total sites opened to house migrants.
Even as they announced the new shelter’s siting, administration officials again emphasized the city has run very low on available space to house additional newcomers and renewed pleas for the federal government to provide additional aid. Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president at NYC Health + Hospitals, said the administration is scrambling every day to find more adequate shelter space.
Long said the public hospital system, which runs many of the emergency shelters, has even resorted to using hotel ballrooms for housing as it continues looking for ways to accommodate more people.
“We’ve for example, opened up the ballrooms in our hotels, trying to be creative in New York City, trying to give people the dignified welcome that they deserve. hoping we would never need to use these ballrooms tonight,” Long said. “Tonight, we will use every ballroom I have. It’s not because we want to, it’s because we have to, given the strain that we’re under, given the number of people coming in.”