Mayor Adams says ‘I don’t believe’ right-to-shelter applies to migrant crisis

Mayor Eric Adams.
Photo By Dean Moses

Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday repeated he doesn’t believe the city’s right-to-shelter mandate applies to nearly 119,000 recently arrived migrants, while his administration is appealing a Staten Island Supreme court ruling that drew a similar conclusion.

The mayor made the remarks in an interview with conservative WABC77 radio host Sid Rosenberg on Sept. 28, when Rosenberg played an audio clip of U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) asking why the mayor would appeal a ruling that seemingly gives him what he wants.

The decision by Staten Island Supreme Court Judge Wayne Ozzi on Tuesday, which came in response to a suit over the use of the shuttered Saint John Villa Academy catholic school as a migrant shelter, argues the city’s right-to-shelter should not apply to recently arrived migrants. Ozzi’s preliminary injunction would have blocked the city from continuing to house some 300 migrants at the closed school, but it was vacated by a higher court when City Hall appealed the decision.

Adams, in the Thursday interview, said that while he agrees the right-to-shelter shouldn’t apply to the migrant influx, there are other parts of Ozzi’s ruling he opposes. Those include Ozzi’s assessment that the city is not in an emergency and that his administration’s sheltering of a seemingly never-ending stream of migrants is responsible for the current crisis.

“I don’t believe the right to shelter applies to a migrant crisis,” the mayor said. “Our team is looking at exactly what we are going to do with the ruling …He stated that we created this emergency by allowing people to come here. Anyone knows that I cannot deny people from coming here. So, we need to peel apart the entire ruling, the comments that he made, and make sure we don’t allow them to stand.”

Adams added there are parts of the ruling they may agree with, and it is up to the city’s Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix to figure that out.

In his ruling, Ozzi said neither the 1981 consent decree that established the right-to-shelter for homeless New Yorkers nor the state constitution “require the City or State of New York to provide shelter to the tens of thousands of migrant asylum seekers who have arrived in the last 18 Months.”

He also referred to the consent decree as a “relic of the past” that didn’t envision the current migrant tide when it was issued over 40 years ago.

Thursday was hardly the first time Adams has publicly questioned the right-to-shelter and his administration is currently seeking to suspend parts of the mandate as it applies to migrants in a Manhattan Supreme Court. On the same day Ozzy issued his ruling, the mayor’s attorneys were in court asking Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Erika Edwards permission to revise its application to change right-to-shelter, although it wasn’t immediately clear how.

Edwards also recused herself from the case on Tuesday due to her wish to avoid “any potential appearance of impropriety, that my impartiality may be questioned.”

When asked by amNewYork Metro about what changes the administration is now pursuing during a Wednesday press conference, Hinds-Radix declined to go into specifics, instead noting that they have until Oct. 3 to submit a letter to the court outlining their latest request.

“We are now with a new schedule to present a specific document to the court that we will have to present by Oct. 3, the request that the city is making,” she said. “And so while we are now in the process of looking at that, I wouldn’t tell you what our litigation strategy is going to be.”