The mayor’s office and its agencies were on the defensive Thursday while touring a new Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center in Midtown amid allegations that the city is having difficulty sheltering the new arrivals.
Mayor Eric Adams and several elected officials toured the center located inside the American Red Cross at 520 West 49th St. The center — which is operated by Catholic Charities of New York through a city contract – is expected to offer free assistance, connecting migrants arriving after Jan. 1 of this year to services and resources.
Some assistance offered on site includes applying for the city Identification Card, known as IDNYC, and providing much-needed footwear. The mayor hailed the center as a “one-stop shop for those seeking asylum to receive free and confidential help accessing the important services and resources that will help them integrate and thrive in New York City.
“The city and the community-based organizations we’ve partnered with on the ground have been working around the clock to provide assistance to the more than 11,000 individuals who have entered the city in the last few months,” Mayor Adams said. “The Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center will streamline city and non-profit services into a central place for families to access everything from health care to education to jobs to immigration legal services so that they can build a life in New York City.”
The Adams administration has come under fire for failing to fulfill the right to shelter to a slew of migrants. But Adams looked to paint the burgeoning crisis as simultaneously an overwhelming influx that his administration is handling with expertise.
Those claims clashed with reports from volunteers, migrants, and an abundance of images that show individuals sleeping on the ground outside shelters indicate that the city is more strained than it is letting on.
The mayor scoffed at the criticism.
“There are two types of New Yorkers. There are those who play ‘I got you’ and stay on the outside and complain. And then there are those who roll up their sleeves and just get stuff done,” Adams scoffed. “Anyone who states that this administration does not have a handle on this crisis, they must have been sleeping under a rock. This coordination from local nonprofits, elected officials, all of my team education, all the human services coming together.”
Adams also faced a hailstorm of questions from the press regarding the overflow of migrants, but the mayor held fast that while the situation is a crisis, his administration remains in control of the situation.
“When I’m in the streets, what I hear from New Yorkers is thank you, Eric for what you’re doing with over 11,000 people,” Adams rebuked.
Office of the Chief Counsel to the Mayor and City Hall Brendan McGuire addressed the controversy surrounding the mayor’s statement on the right to shelter. McGuire pointed out that the city will be assessing the practices surrounding the law.
“We’re reassessing the city’s practices with respect to the right to shelter. No administration, no team has done more to guarantee the right to shelter than this table faced with over 11,000 asylum seekers since May. They’ve safely and efficiently provided them not just shelter but all the related services that the consent decree upon which the right to shelter is based guarantees,” McGuire said.
He emphasized that the unprecedented amount of asylum seekers arriving in New York has pushed the city shelter system in ways that no one could have possibly foreseen. The mayor’s administration believes it to be prudent to reassess these practices in terms of operation and communication.
“There are various practices that have arisen with respect to the right to shelter over these decades, relating to the homegrown unhoused population here in New York. Obviously, none of those practices developed with anyone contemplating that there were going to be over 10,000 individuals bused into New York with no connection to New York from overseas. And so, we have to reassess all of the ways in which those practices have developed to determine whether we are making these decisions as efficiently as possible, and obviously always in accord with the right to shelter,” McGuire said.
The Legal Aid Society, who has been critical of the shelters handling of migrants, responded to this in a positive light.
“We are always willing to work with the city on ways to improve services for anyone in need of shelter, including asylum seekers, so long as any proposal complies with well-established court orders and New York State’s Constitution, which require the city to provide homeless individuals and families placement in a safe and accessible shelter. We were glad to hear City officials affirming their commitment to those obligations this morning,” Legal Aid Society said.