Construction has officially begun on the Randall’s Island Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center anticipated to house some 2,000 migrants.
Tucked away at the southern end of the island, workers literally started laying the foundation on Tuesday of what will become the second tent city the island has seen since 2022—although the first one was taken down when the migrant influx subsided temporarily last year.
The relief center is going up on a soccer field that is expected to render several of the greenspaces unusable to the public once the facility is fully up and running.
According to the mayor’s press secretary Fabien Levy, there is no definitive date as to when the center will be in operation, only that it is projected to house new arrivals in the “coming weeks.”
Workers could be observed hammering large spikes into the field, securing what will become the center’s base while others in hard hats maneuvered heavy machinery as children laughed and played in the neighboring field.
The plan has garnered some pushback from nearby residents and parents since it will take space away from children and athletes.
Katie Wright, 52, told amNewYork Metro that she is pro immigrant, even emphasizing that she is a Democrat. However, she also said that taking away children’s soccer fields is not the answer.
“I am so furious. If you live on the East Side, we’ve got no green space. Central Park is further from here,” Wright fumed, who says her son spent his youth playing soccer on Randall’s Island.
She also questioned whether Randall’s Island is a suitable location for new arrivals.
“I’m sure 99% of these guys are nice and just want to follow the rules. But they’re young guys on an island. What are they going to do all day? And 2,000 people?” Wright added.
The Randall’s Island Park Alliance likewise mourned the soccer fields as a casualty of the crisis, calling it a loss for schools.
Sources within the mayor’s office say the city is running out of options, leaving them stretched-thin as they say they are doing everything they can to care for some estimated 57,200 asylum seekers after already opening 13 other “large-scale” humanitarian relief centers.
“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,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.
Still, not all locals are opposed to the Randall’s Island plan. Oscar Rodriguez, who says he has lived in a shelter on Randall’s Island for several years, said he feels that the new arrivals need a safe space to be housed and a place where they are not subject to hostility from people who don’t want them in the city.
“If they take care of them and point them in the right direction, I guess it’s good. They just got to have security, so nobody bothers them,” Rodriguez said.