Adams admin is erecting migrant shelter on Randall’s Island, less than a year after tearing the last one down

new tent-shelter for housing migrants
A new tent-shelter for housing migrants is slated for Randall’s Island in the coming weeks, not even a year after the city tore its last shelter on the island down.
Photo By Dean Moses

Not even a year after disassembling a large migrant tent shelter on Randall’s Island, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday his administration will be setting up yet another facility in the same location.

The latest so-called “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center” (HERRC) will be a tent-facility erected on several athletic fields in the southwestern section of the island. It will house up to 2,000 adult migrants and, according to mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy, is set to be up-and-running in the coming weeks.

The relief center, which will be the 16th the city will have opened since last year when it comes online, will be entirely paid for by the state — including construction, operational and staffing costs.

The mayor, in a statement, said the facility comes as finding enough beds to house tens of thousands of newly arrived migrants each night has turned into a “Herculean effort” for his administration.

“As the number of asylum seekers in our care continues to grow by hundreds every day, stretching our system to its breaking point and beyond, it has become more and more of a Herculean effort to find enough beds every night,” Adams said. “We’re grateful to Governor [Kathy] Hochul and New York state for their partnership in opening this new humanitarian relief center and covering the costs, and we need more of the same from all levels of government.”

With the announcement, a new migrant mega-shelter is coming to Randall’s less than 12 months after another 1,000 bed facility on the island was taken down after operating for less than a month. That shelter was decommissioned after never reaching full capacity due to a lull in the number of new arrivals at the time, according to City Hall.

The Randall’s site will be the second such large-scale facility the state has agreed in recent weeks to cover the cost for— the other being a 1,000-bed tent shelter currently being constructed in the parking of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in eastern Queens.

The latest helping hand from the state follows Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ericka Edwards, at a Friday emergency court conference over the city’s right-to-shelter law, ordering Hochul to give the city far more assistance with meeting its obligation to provide shelter to anyone seeking it. The conference was called following multiple days last week where over 100 asylum seekers were left to sleep on city streets outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, which is serving as the city’s migrant intake center.

Besides offering $1 billion in migrant aid, the state has so far not treated the migrant influx like a crisis in the same way that the city has.

Edwards directed the city to provide the state with a list of all state-owned facilities and resources that could be deployed to help address the influx by this Wednesday, and the state has until Aug. 15 to respond. The Legal Aid Society, which called for the conference over the apparent right-to-shelter violations at the Roosevelt Hotel, said in a Friday statement that it hopes the state will start pitching in more with new pressure from the court.

“We hope that today’s conference is the start of the state significantly increasing its involvement in the form of funding, staffing, facilities, coordination and more,” the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless said in a joint Friday statement.

The latest HERRC drew swift backlash from the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, a nonprofit charged with running the island’s park lands, when it was first reported by the New York Daily News last week. The group’s leaders told the News that using the fields for migrant housing would lead to the cancellation of over 3,000 permit hours for youth, adolescent and adult sports leagues that utilize the fields — mostly for soccer.

In a statement to amNewYork Metro, the Alliance’s co-chairs Nancy Neff and Jonathan May characterized the fields being converted to an asylum seeker shelter as a “loss” to those who regularly utilize them.

“While we are empathetic to the humanitarian crisis, we also understand that taking these highly used athletic fields offline is a loss for many NYC schools and leagues,” they said. “Randall’s Island Park Alliance is dedicated to reducing the impact of the HERRC facility and will work closely with NYC Parks to reduce the number of lost permit hours. The Alliance will also work with the City to ensure that the affected synthetic athletic fields are restored in an expedited manner, and that New Yorkers of all ages can return to play on these fields as soon as possible.”

A City Hall spokesperson confirmed the administration is working with the Alliance and city agencies to “reduce the number of permit hours canceled.”

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