Dozens of migrants and advocates protested Mayor Eric Adams’ effort to limit shelter stays by pulling out sleeping bags on the doorstep of Gracie Mansion on Thursday.
“Mayor Adams you can’t hide, we don’t want to sleep outside,” participants chanted from inside their sleeping bags on 86th Street and East End Avenue, just outside of Hizzoner’s Upper East Side home.
Protesters from a variety of organizations including the Legal Aid Society and the coalition for the homeless accused Mayor Adams of “punching down” at vulnerable individuals by striving to limit the stay of single male migrants to 30 days inside shelters while placing a cap on families at 60 days.
Advocates argue that if the right to shelter law is nullified, the streets of the Big Apple will be inundated with new arrivals, including families, sleeping on the sidewalk. In an effort to showcase what this might look like, several immigrants joined in what they dubbed a “sleep in.”
“Gracie Mansion is the mayor’s mansion, but it doesn’t belong to the mayor, it belongs to the people of New York,” Amaha Kassa said, the executive director of African Communities Together. “We’re here today with our sleeping bags and with our tents because if we don’t get leadership from Mayor Adams on the migrant crisis and on housing and protecting the right to shelter, we are gonna see sleeping bags and tents all over New York City.”
Huddling together, some asylum seekers peered out from their sleeping bags while others used protest signs as makeshift blankets. Many more stomped up and down the pavement just outside of Carl Schurz Park as they demanded the mayor cease his lawsuit against the right to shelter.
“The 60-day rule for families and the 30-day rule for singles is inhumane and counterproductive. It’s not who we are as New Yorkers,” Dr. Henry Love of Win said. “We know we can do better, and we have to do better.”
Although the “Sleep in” was a temporary protest, those in attendance say that the sight will soon be a grim reality. However, City Hall argues that they have been left with no choice but to limit stays due to their purse bursting at the seams.
City hall says that it has spent more than $2.7 billion on this crisis alone and expects to spend $5 billion by the end of this fiscal year, and $12 billion over the course of three fiscal years. City officials also argue that they are not attempting to terminate the Right to Shelter, they are seeking the city’s obligations to be aligned with those of the rest of the state during the ongoing crisis.
“More than 140,000 asylum seekers have come through our intake system since the spring of 2022, all of whom have been offered vital care, including shelter, food, access to medical care, casework services, legal assistance, and more. But, with more than 65,600 migrants still currently in our care, and thousands more continuing to arrive every week, we have used every possible corner of New York City and are, quite simply, out of good options to shelter migrants,” a spokesperson for the mayor said in a statement.
The mayor’s office stated that if anyone has a better plan that works within the city’s means and regulations, then they are open to coordinating a new strategy.
“Unless those now criticizing New York City’s response have realistic alternatives to suggest, we ask that they instead join us in calling for meaningful help and a decompression strategy from our state and federal partners. As we have repeatedly said, a city cannot continue to manage a national crisis almost entirely on its own. It’s not fair to asylum seekers and it’s not fair to longtime New Yorkers.”