Mayor says City Council could do more to help his admin handle the migrant crisis

Mayor Eric Adams announcing asylum seeker ‘blueprint’ at City Hall.
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams took a shot at city lawmakers on Tuesday claiming that they were not doing enough to help his administration handle the massive influx of asylum seekers into the city over the past year.

While rolling out his new “blueprint” for providing shelter, food and services to the nearly 50,000 migrants who’ve arrived in the five boroughs since last spring, Adams applauded the City Council for its own recent initiative to funnel $1.2 million of its unused discretionary funds to nonprofits on the frontlines of the crisis. The council’s initiative also includes another $1 million from several philanthropic organizations.

But Adams also took aim at the council for not, from his perspective, doing enough to pitch in on City Hall’s efforts to deal with the waves of migrants.

“They gave us a million out of a $4.2 billion potential call, I think they got to dig a little deeper,” Adams said.

The mayor was referring to his office’s estimate that sheltering tens of thousands of migrants could cost the city $4.2 billion over the current and next fiscal years. That tab is increasingly daunting as both the federal and state governments have been slow to get the city much needed reimbursements since Adams declared an asylum seeker state of emergency last fall.

A City Council spokesperson, however, pushed back on the mayor’s comments, saying that he didn’t put them in the right context. 

The money Adams is asking for from the federal and state governments, the spokesperson said, is to reimburse the city for what it has spent on 92 emergency shelters and the seven relief centers it has opened to house migrants; while the funding in the council’s initiative is for nonprofits and community-based organizations that dole out services the city isn’t providing. Those include workforce development, food distribution, giving out clothing and legal assistance.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (left) and Finance Chair Justin Brannan announcing a new public-private iniative to fund nonprofits helping asylum seekers.Credit John McCarten NYC Council Media Unit

That’s similar, the spokesperson said, to a fund the mayor’s office included in Tuesday’s announcement that seeks to raise $25 million from philanthropic groups and corporations to “support the city’s collective response.”

“It’s weird that the mayor made that comment considering both the council and the mayor recognize that these organizations need this funding to support asylum seekers,” they said.

The mayor also said, in response to a question from amNewYork Metro, that he doesn’t think the council has done enough to push Washington and Albany for more emergency funds.

For instance, he said he didn’t start seeing council members calling on the federal and state governments for financial assistance until late last year.

“If you do an analysis of the severity of this crisis, we have to ask ourselves, have they amplified their voices to Washington, D.C.?” the mayor told reporters. 

“I believe it was not until late last year that the first letter was actually put out,” he added. “It wasn’t until late last year before the first Tweet. You can Tweet from your shower. This was probably the top crisis in our city. There should have been a response from our local electors. They should have been lobbying government to say, ‘this is unfair to New York because it’s unfair to our constituency.’”

The council spokesperson also disputed that point, noting that City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams had called on the federal government to pitch in more dollars on “a few occasions” last year as well as individual council members, who may have flown under the mayor’s radar.

“No one has the platform to do it in the way that he does it,” they said. “So maybe he’s not seeing that, but it’s something the speaker has done, and other council members are asking for from the [federal government].”