The state has given Mayor Eric Adams clearance to use a shuttered prison complex in Harlem as a temporary migrant shelter, as his administration has struggled to find housing for a wave of migrants who have inundated the Big Apple in recent weeks, the mayor’s office confirmed to amNewYork Metro Friday.
According to City Hall, the state gave the administration the green light to use the Lincoln Correctional Facility, 31-33 West 110th St., which has stood empty since it was permanently shuttered in 2019, as an “emergency respite center” where single adult male migrants will be housed. It will initially accommodate up to 500 newcomers.
The facility will open in the coming days and none of the migrants being housed there will be put in cells.
“We’re grateful to the state for providing this site and partnering with the city to open this space as a temporary site for asylum seekers as New York City continues to face this humanitarian crisis,” a City Hall spokesperson said in a statement to amNewYork Metro.
Lincoln Correctional Facility is a 10,000 square-foot former state prison that sits across from Central Park. When it was open, the eight-story structure served as an all-men’s minimum-security prison that could accommodate 275 inmates — a portion of whom were white collar criminals.
When it opens, the complex with be the first jail or prison facility in New York to house migrants.
The move comes as the mayor has faced a torrent of criticism over his attempts to find suitable housing for a recent surge of migrants, which his office says was spurred by the lapse of a pandemic-era federal rule that limited immigration across the U.S. border — known as Title 42. Over 70,000 migrants have come through the city’s shelter intake centers over the past year, according to the mayor’s office, with nearly 45,000 currently in its homeless and emergency shelter systems.
“We’ve had over 70,000 asylum seekers come through the city’s intake centers since last spring, and, yet, hundreds of asylum seekers continue to arrive in New York City every day,” the spokesperson said. “We continue to need additional financial and operational support from our partners.”
Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, in a statement, confirmed her administration is permitting the city to use the site as a temporary shelter following a review of available state-owned properties that could accommodate migrants.
“In recent weeks, as Title 42 expired, the Governor directed her team to visit every available state-owned property, assess their feasibility for sheltering asylum seekers and offer suitable sites to the city for their use,” Hochul’s office said. “The city and state have agreed to use 31-33 W 110th Street in Manhattan, one of the State-owned properties we identified, as a temporary respite center for asylum seekers, and we have begun the process to transform the space so it is appropriately welcoming.”
The site will be the latest respite center Adams’ office will be opening, following at least seven others that have come online since the expiration of Title 42. According to a report from the news site The City, the mayor’s office said the sites are meant to be “like a waiting room,” serving as waystation for migrants while the city finds them longer term housing.
But the same report noted some migrants have already stayed a week at the facilities, which include a church, a judo gym and a closed school building, among other sites. The centers are operated by the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management.
Although Lincoln Correctional hasn’t been an active prison for four years, Adams’ move to house migrants there will likely garner fierce opposition.
Reports the administration was considering housing some migrants in a temporarily-shuttered jail on Rikers Island earlier this month drew swift condemnation from advocates and City Council members, due to the long standing dangerous conditions and crumbling infrastructure of the island complex.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ office declined to comment on the state’s approval of the Harlem site being used for asylum seeker housing. A call placed and message left with the local council member, Kristin Richardson Jordan, wasn’t returned.
Just two months back, Governor Kathy Hochul had other plans for the facility.
In March, Hochul released a request for proposals for a redevelopment of the site that would create jobs, revenue for the city and state and some amount of affordable housing. Hochul’s office said using the prison for migrants is temporary, and its redevelopment plans will “continue to move forward.”
“This is a temporary and short-term use of Lincoln, and the State’s plans for the site continue to be to move forward in the months ahead to redevelop it as affordable housing,” they said. “We continue to join our partners at all levels of government to call for a permanent, federal solution to this crisis.”